Monday, November 07, 2005

NY TIMES: TIME TO MOVE NOW ON GLOBAL WARMING

New York Times Editorial
Climate Signals

Published: November 7, 2005

President Bush has long argued that a nationwide program of mandatory controls on carbon dioxide and other global warming gases would saddle the country with crippling electricity costs. He may be surprised to learn that his own Environmental Protection Agency no longer believes that to be the case.

In the course of a study comparing costs and benefits of various clean air bills rattling around Capitol Hill (including Mr. Bush's Clear Skies program), the E.P.A. found that under a measure sponsored by Senator Thomas Carper, a Delaware Democrat, the cost to electric utilities of controlling carbon dioxide would be only $1 per ton, imposing little burden on consumers and business.

To be sure, Mr. Carper's is the least aggressive and least expensive of the bills requiring mandatory controls. It applies only to power plants, which account for about one-third of carbon dioxide emissions, and would not regulate emissions from cars and others sources.

Still, that measly $1-per-ton figure should embarrass the Bush people who've been warning that controls will bring economic ruin (Clear Skies regulates other pollutants but not carbon dioxide), while providing encouragement to those in Congress who believe that action on warming is long overdue.

Not that there's any shortage of incentives. A recent series in The Times provided fresh evidence that there is already so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the Arctic, where the sea ice has been steadily disappearing, may have passed "the point of no return." But the series also said there's still time to avert catastrophic consequences, like the melting of the Greenland ice cap.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's staunch and patient friend, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, has once again - this time in The Observer - appealed to the president to join in a global effort to limit greenhouse gases. Without American participation, Mr. Blair suggests, there's little hope of securing the cooperation of the Chinese, who are building coal-fired power plants at a rapid clip and whose future emissions could overwhelm Western efforts to get a grip on the problem.

Add in the fact that 2005 is almost certain to be the hottest year on record (continuing a 25-year trend of rising global temperatures); add also what Mr. Blair calls "vicious climate disasters," including stronger hurricanes, and the stage would seem to be set for serious debate.
Last summer, the Senate approved a nonbinding resolution that put it on record for the first time as favoring a program of mandatory controls on global warming gases. New Mexico's Pete Domenici - a recent convert to the global warming cause and a Republican leader on energy issues - vowed to follow up by seeking consensus legislation.

Mr. Domenici should make this an early order of business in the new year, not least because he alone may have the credibility to shake Mr. Bush's indifference.

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