Below is a post I recently wrote for the National Journal Energy and Environment Experts Blog on the American Power Act, legislation introduced by Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman to confront the challenges of climate change.
We are poised on what could be a historic moment for America.
Never before has the U.S. Congress been so close to passing legislation that could change the way our country uses and produces energy, while also taking steps to protect our lands, waters and communities from the growing threats of climate change.
The surprising array of initial supporters of that legislation — called The American Power Act – range from some of the country’s largest energy producers to leading military experts to conservation organizations. That range shows a growing recognition of the need for action.
The continuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has the potential to be another incentive for members of Congress to move our country away from our dependence on oil and to kick start a new clean energy industry that will build American jobs and economic opportunities.
By lowering greenhouse gas pollution 17 percent in the short-term, and by 80 percent over the next 40 years, the bill also has the potential to position the United States as a global leader in the fight against climate change.
Whether one agrees with every bit of science that points to the threats of man-made carbon emissions, The Nature Conservancy’s own scientists working on the ground around the world are seeing firsthand the impacts of a changing climate on the Earth’s waters, lands, species and human communities.
As a father and a grandfather, it seems to me irresponsible to ignore these signs of an uncertain future for the next generations of Americans.
By developing a bill that has been able to draw diverse support, Sens. John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman (and, yes, Lindsey Graham) may finally have achieved enough common ground — and common sense — to take the next steps needed to build a clean energy industry, grow American jobs and protect our country’s natural resources.
Certainly the bill is not perfect. The Conservancy plans to work closely with members of Congress and others to bring more focus to several issues — including the need to protect communities around the world from climate impacts and the importance of investing in forest conservation as a strategy for reducing carbon emissions:
- In an age of globalization, floods, droughts and other climate-related disasters across the globe will directly affect Americans here at home. Helping people and the natural systems upon which they depend cope with climate impacts is less dangerous and less expensive than dealing with climate-caused armed conflicts and with governments destabilized by food and water shortages.
- Destruction of the world’s forests produces about 15 percent of the annual carbon dioxide emissions pumped into the atmosphere each year – more than all the planes, trains and automobiles on Earth. We cannot win the fight against climate change without stopping deforestation. Allowing U.S. businesses to invest under carefully controlled conditions in international forest protection can begin mitigation of climate change at a very reasonable cost while we ramp up the use of low carbon energy technologies. And the savings companies will achieve will translate into savings for the American consumer.
I have no illusions that resolving these and other issues to achieve passage of the American Power Act will be easy. We have already seen how transforming the country’s energy system — while also addressing the politically charged issue of climate change — can get people stirred up.
However, the broad spectrum of businesses, military leaders, faith-based groups, conservationists and others who are supporting this bill shows that there is, at last, the distinct possibility for action.
We at The Nature Conservancy are grateful for this opportunity to work together with all sorts of other interests to make this work.
(Image: Duke Energy’s 14-megawatt Blue Wing Solar Project in San Antonio, Texas. Image Credit: Duke Energy/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.)
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