Global Warming Bill Advances to Full Senate

For the first time, a bill calling for mandatory limits on greenhouse gases was approved by a Senate panel. The Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11 to 8 for legislation to cap emissions of heat trapping gases. The measure was strengthened by provisions added by Senator Bernie Sanders, including a $300 billion commitment over the next four decades to encourage the development of renewable sources energy like solar, wind and geothermal power.

For the first time, a bill calling for mandatory limits on greenhouse gases was approved by a Senate panel. The Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11 to 8 for legislation to cap emissions of heat trapping gases. The measure was strengthened by provisions added by Senator Bernie Sanders, including a $300 billion commitment over the next four decades to encourage the development of renewable sources energy like solar, wind and geothermal power.

"With that kind of federal funding, sustainable energy will become far more widespread than is currently the case," Sanders told The Burlington Free Press. A member of the committee, Sanders said the bill would spur "an incredible burst forward" toward greater use of cleaner sources of energy.

The bill also set more stringent emissions standards than an earlier version of the legislation.

"If we can overcome politics as usual, if we utilize the knowledge and technology that is available today, not only can we reverse global warming, but we can create millions of good-paying jobs," Sanders said.

At the outset of what turned out to be a day-long the committee meeting, Sanders called the bill "an important step forward in the fight against global warming." He continued:

"What the leading scientists of the world are telling us in more and more urgent tones is that global warming is a catastrophic crisis facing our planet and that if we do not act boldly and aggressively our nation and the entire world face a very dire future impacting the lives of billions of people. It will be a future of massive floods, droughts, loss of drinking water and farmland, extreme weather conditions and international conflicts fought over limited natural resources. It will be a future of very significant economic dislocation. That is not my opinion. That is the opinion of the most knowledgeable scientists in this world, many of whom have just won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on global warming.

"What these scientists are now telling us is that the problem is even more severe than they had previously believed and that if we, industrialized nations responsible for most of the emissions, do not cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by the year 2050 there is a 50 percent chance that we will reach a tipping point at which time massive damage will be unavoidable. That is the bad news.

"But there is also some very good news. If we can overcome politics as usual, if we utilize the knowledge and technology that is available today, not only can we reverse global warming but we can create millions of good jobs in the process.

"In other words, we are not helpless in this conflict. The tools and knowledge are there and, if we summon up the political courage, we can make great strides forward and lead the world in reversing global warming.

"What should we be doing?

"First, in terms of sustainable energy, there is almost unlimited potential. In that regard I want to thank Senators Boxer, Lieberman and Warner for revising the legislation that came out of the subcommittee and putting into the bill we're considering today a suggestion that I made which will specifically provide, from the auction process, some $300 billion for sustainable energy - including wind, solar, and geothermal. With effective cooperation between the federal government and the private sector, a very substantial part of the energy needs of this country will, within the next few decades, come from such clear and sustainable technologies - and they will be less expensive than the conventional fuels we use today.

"Second, the potential for cutting carbon emissions through strong energy efficiency efforts is extraordinary. If we raise CAFE standards for our vehicles and create a first-class rail and public transportation system, if we retrofit our homes, offices and factories and create strong energy efficient building standards for new construction, we can save massive amounts of energy and substantially cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"Many of us on this committee have children and grandchildren. We owe it to them, and to all the children of this world, to reverse global warming and leave them a planet they can fully enjoy. The truth is that we now have the knowledge and technology to accomplish that goal. What has been lacking is the political will. I hope today that we can, in fact, develop that will. Thank you."