Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Forecast for Climate Change Bill: Cloudy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Forecast for Climate Change Bill: Cloudy

Article excerpt

A climate change bill that escaped from a House committee last Thursday - and which Congress will confront again next month - has already seen some mighty wriggling from lawmakers forced to take a stand. Yet most realize that capping greenhouse-gas emissions is a subject they can no longer tiptoe around. Without "rapid and massive action" from governments, Earth's climate is likely to heat up twice as much by 2100 as thought just six years ago, says a new MIT study - about 9 degrees F. instead of 4.3, a rise with potentially severe consequences. "The least-cost option to lower the risk is to start now and steadily transform the global energy system over the coming decades to low or zero greenhouse gas-emitting technologies," says the study's co-author, Ronald Prinn, director of MIT's Center for Global Change Science. Whether the bill passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee qualifies as "rapid and massive" action remains to be seen. The draft bill's initial goal of a 20 percent cut in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by the year 2020 was weakened to 17 percent. It would, however, keep the long-range goal of an 80 percent reduction by 2050 that is widely thought to be necessary. The carbon-permit plan (so-called cap-and-trade) described in the 900-plus-page document (at least the bill itself is "massive") is mind-numbingly complex and thus open to abuses without careful oversight. As constituted now, it would give away 85 percent of its pollution permits free of charge, endangering both its goals of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and providing funds for clean- energy research or to compensate Americans for higher energy costs. The costs to taxpayers are the subject of wide disagreement. President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency says the cost to a family would be less than $200 a year, not a bad price for avoiding climate disaster. But the conservative Heritage Foundation argues families could eventually pay several thousand dollars per year. …

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