Despite the growing body of scientific evidence that indicates that climate change poses a very real threat to the global environment, the 106th Congress failed to move any meaningful climate change legislation. For its part, the Clinton administration was unable to force Congress to engage constructively on the issue. These failures, combined with the election of President George W. Bush, represent a tremendous source of concern for environmentalists interested in climate change.
Momentum in Congress has shifted away from credit for early action proposals to a four-pollutant regulatory approach endorsed by President Bush dur ing his campaign (a commitment he abandoned early in his term). In the Congress, bipartisan legislation to simultaneously control emissions of mercury, nitrogen, sulfur, and carbon such as bills introduced by Representative Thomas Allen and 19 cosponsors (H.R. 1335) and Senator James Jeffords and 14 cosponsors (S. 556) has already been introduced in the 107th Congress. In all likelihood, however, some version of credit for early action will resurface as any bill to regulate carbon emissions moves forward.
Whether policymakers disavow the safety blanket of scientific uncertainty, businesses recognize their potentially tremendous climate change liability. Whether Congress and the Bush administration decide to advance environmental issues will determine whether the United States assumes a leadership role in the international effort to protect the earth's climate.
If Congress and the White House agree to tackle the climate change challenge together, the Kyoto Protocol or something like it will follow the Montreal Protocol into history as a case study in international environmental stewardship and global cooperation. If no such accord is reached, the Kyoto Protocol will join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as a failed ratification vote by which the United States abdicates its international leadership responsibility to the detriment of the global environment, the global community, and future generations.
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