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Monday, November 27, 2006

New Senate Energy Committee Chair Warns that US Will Miss Closing WIndow to Tackle Climate Change

US Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) has warned that the US will not be able to take sufficient action to curb its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within the timeframe scientists say is necessary, according to an article from Environmental Finance Online News.

In the recently published Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern called for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol to be signed in 2007, not in 2010 or 2011 as is currently expected.

Scientific and economic calls for more expeditious action on global warming are increasing. Earlier this week, NASA scientist James Hansen – who has said that White House officials were censoring climate change warnings from the space agency [see previous post] – said:

"There is still a huge gap between what is understood about global warming by the scientific community, and what is known about global warming by those who need to know—the public and policymakers.

We must close that gap and move our energy systems in a fundamentally different direction within about a decade, or we will have pushed the planet past a tipping point beyond which it will be impossible to avoid far-ranging undesirable consequences."
Speaking at the London School of Economics on Tuesday, Senator Bingaman said: "I think that the reality is this issue is probably not going to ripen and mature and get solved in that window."

Moreover, Bingaman indicated that the US could opt for a domestic solution for cutting emissions, rather than join the Kyoto Protocol after its current targets expire in 2012. He said: "I really don't think the Kyoto Protocol is something that anyone is debating in the US. The debate is now to the question of what are realistic goals that we could hope to agree and accomplish."

But he added: "The ideal end result will be to get a cap-and-trade system that will be world-wide. The US has got to do something credible at the national level."

Even if the newly Democrat-controlled Congress pushed through such a measure, it would be unlikely to be carried out while George Bush remains president, Bingaman said. "Realistically, it is going to be difficult to complete action on a cap-and-trade system in the US in these final two years of the Bush administration."

Instead, those favouring mandatory controls on GHGs will have to wait until after the 2008 presidential election. "Many of the potential presidential candidates have stated their support for a system of mandatory controls," said Bingaman.

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