In U.S., Al Gore has more company on climate change now

As the climate debate shifts away from the blame game, there's a growing interest in climate-action strategy.

Global climate change promises to be as big an issue in 2008, politically, as it was last year. In the United States, presidential and congressional elections are likely to be a major factor in this accelerating interest. That's particularly true since the issue is closely related to energy policy, not to mention the instability in Iraq, an oil-rich part of the world.

The debate in Congress has shifted from what is causing rising global temperatures to the strategies for fighting it. The Oregonian newspaper reports:

"A Senate committee approved legislation [last] month that would place mandatory limits on carbon dioxide emissions and create a carbon-trading market – the core components of the Kyoto Treaty. 'Arguing about global warming now is like arguing against gravity,' said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.... Lawmakers from both parties, along with lobbyists and advocates ... say the issue has never seen stronger momentum on Capitol Hill."

The ground seems to be shifting at the White House too,. President Bush has moved incrementally toward accepting the reality of human-caused global warming. The Washington Post describes the nature of the change:

"For years, Bush bristled privately at what he considered ... alarmism by the liberal, elitist Hollywood crowd. The clatter over climate change, according to friends and advisers, seemed to him more like a political agenda than a rational response to known facts. But ever so gradually, they say ... he has found the science increasingly persuasive and believes more needs to be done."

Climate change has not been a major issue in the presidential race. But that may be changing, notes a story in The Des Moines Register:

"Gone are the days when former Vice President Al Gore was the lone political voice talking about global warming and alternative energy. Not only have Gore's fellow Democrats detailed positions on the issue, but Republicans – historically more reluctant to talk about global warming and energy – have begun to find their voices as well."

Americans rate the environment as the third-highest "national problem," according to recent polling by GlobeScan quoted in Britain's Financial Times. A majority now views climate change as a serious problem, and nearly 60 percent say it'll be "necessary to take major steps very soon." The Financial Times piece continues:

"Paul Hanrahan, chief executive of the US power company AES, said: 'The pace at which understanding is growing in the US on climate change means that it will definitely be an issue in the elections [this] year. Politicians who choose to ignore it run the risk of suffering at the ballot box.' "

Whether or not those running for Congress and the presidency take steps to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, action will continue to happen at the state and local level, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. A story in the Kitsap (Wash.) Sun notes:

" 'The drivers of climate change are global, but the effects of climate change on Washington are local and unique,' Gov. Chris Gregoire said in an executive order designed to engage state agencies and citizens in efforts to deal with climate change."

In Oregon, an array of new environmental laws related to climate set standards for fuel, renewable power generation, and appliance efficiency. The Oregonian reports:

"The bills, passed by the 2007 Legislature and vigorously endorsed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski, address everything from the blends of ethanol in a car's fuel tank to the amount of wind-powered electricity in a home to the efficiency rating of a hot tub."

Meanwhile, increasing global temperatures, sped by fossil fuel burning, seem to be one reason nuclear power is seeing a resurgence, reports the Los Angeles Times.

"Nuclear-fueled electricity is championed by all of the Republican front-runners. And, while the top contenders on the Democratic side cite serious concerns about safety, waste disposal, and plant security, only former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina flatly opposes construction of new nuclear plants. "
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