Feature

The Senate tackles global warming

The U.S. Senate this week began debate on a far-reaching bill aimed at combating global warming

The U.S. Senate this week began debate on a far-reaching bill aimed at combating global warming—the most comprehensive climate-change legislation ever to reach the floor of either house. The measure aims to cut carbon-dioxide emissions to 66 percent of current levels by 2050, by setting up a system to auction pollution permits to U.S. businesses. Companies whose emissions fall below permitted levels could sell pollution “credits” to companies whose emissions exceed standards. The auctions could raise an estimated $3.3 trillion by 2050, with some of the money used for alternative-energy research.

The measure is not expected to pass in the current congressional session, and President Bush promises to veto it if it does. Still, backers say it marks an important milestone as policymakers get increasingly serious about global warming. “Doing nothing is not an option,” said Republican Sen. John Warner, a co-sponsor. But Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell called the bill “a giant tax on virtually every aspect of our economy.”

That’s an understatement, actually, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. This measure would usher in nothing less than “the largest income redistribution scheme since the income tax.” The auction of emission permits would produce “a gigantic revenue windfall for Congress,” which would then steer the money to pet projects. In the guise of a scheme to reduce pollution, Congress is trying to lay claim “to a vast new chunk of the private economy.”

Extreme threats call for extreme responses, said The Boston Globe. The reason Sen. Warner, a leading military expert, backs this measure is because he recognizes the “threat to national security posed by the failure to address global warming.” Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker recently warned that unless we act aggressively to reverse global warming, “our economies will go down the drain in 30 years.” In short, we can’t afford to wait.

But lawmakers are sadly mistaken if they think this bill will actually cut climate-changing emissions, said Peter Morici in the Providence Journal-Bulletin. It would only encourage “energy-intensive industries to flee to developing countries,” where anti-pollution laws are largely toothless. Chasing industry to the Third World “only accelerates environmental damage and makes the world poorer.”

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