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Presidential campaigns have climate change on agenda

Both leading Democrat and Republican candidates vie to show they can tackle global warming.

By / February 14, 2008

Now that Sen. John McCain is the presumptive GOP nominee, all three of the leading presidential candidates seem likely to tackle climate change in a way that clearly will distinguish the next president from the George W. Bush administration.

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Senator McCain was one of the first on Capitol Hill, and one of the few of his party, to acknowledge the reality of global warming and the need to act quickly. His position on the issue is one reason why hard-core conservatives have been suspicious of McCain.

As a result, Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are rushing to present themselves as greener than the Arizona Republican.

On the eve of this week's "Potomac primaries" in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, Senator Obama aligned himself with former vice president Al Gore's push to make the US take the lead on reducing greenhouse gases. The Washington Post reports:

"[Obama] said he would start developing the U.S. position on a pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol before the general election in November…. 'I think we need to start reaching out to other countries ahead of time, not because I'm presumptuous, but because there's such a sense of urgency about this.' "

All three candidates favor a "cap and trade" system that would issue oil companies, power plants, and other major big polluters permits to emit carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas thought to cause global warming.

The two Democrats have more detailed plans, including energy proposals aimed at big oil companies. But all three favor letting states set their own limits on CO2, which the Bush administration opposes.

As is usually the case, environmental groups lean Democratic rather than Republican. The League of Conservation Voters has yet to endorse a candidate, but spokesman David Sandretti says the proposals from Clinton and Obama are "very good." The Baltimore Sun reports:

" 'They address the overall need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and they set forward goals that accomplish those,' Sandretti said. 'On the Republican side, clearly one candidate stands out, and that's John McCain. He has been working on this issue for a number of years, he has legislation that will reduce greenhouse gases, has a target, it's economywide. Unfortunately, his goals are not what we feel are necessary to stem the worst effects.' "