States Take the Lead on Global Warming ; Ten States Are Set to Up the Environmental Ante, Suing Administration for Tighter Energy Controls

Article excerpt

Confronting climate change - which most scientists now say is real - is a worldwide effort. That's why it's called "global warming."

But as nations continue to argue over the Kyoto agreement and other multinational approaches, and as Congress considers an energy billthat would expand fossil-fuel production, state governments are taking the lead in reducing the greenhouse gases that seem to be sending temperatures upward.

Ten states are about to sue the administration to force the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. Fourteen states, including President Bush's home state of Texas, now require utilities to generate part of their power from renewable sources.

One region - the Northeast - is following its own Kyoto-like path. New England states and five eastern Canadian provinces have set goals to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2010, then reduce them another 10 percent by 2017.

Similarly, governors on the West Coast recently announced a joint strategy to reduce global warming. Included in this effort: using their combined purchasing power to buy fuel-efficient vehicles for official use; developing uniform appliance-efficiency standards; collaborating to measure and report greenhouse-gas emissions; reducing the use of diesel generators on ships in California, Oregon, and Washington State ports.

It's not just a matter of wanting to enjoy a clearer view of the region's spectacular mountains and coastlines.

"This is a matter of economic necessity," says Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D). "Global warming is a real phenomenon, which affects us in many ways, from increasingly costly forest fires to encroaching seas."

Barry Rabe, who teaches environmental policy and political science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, finds that "the current level of state activity surrounding the issue of climate change is striking."

The climate of change

In a study of state programs for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Dr. Rabe found a variety of initiatives around the country - many of them far in advance of what the federal government is doing.

"Measures that have proven controversial at the federal level, such as renewable portfolio standards and mandatory reporting of greenhouse-gas emissions, have been implemented at the state level, often with little dissent," he says.

For example, says Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew center and former assistant secretary of state in charge of environmental and scientific affairs, Texas and 13 other states now require utilities to generate a specified share of their power from renewable sources.

"Three [states] have established reporting programs for greenhouse-gas emissions, and two of these are mandatory programs," Ms. …