Climate Stewardship Act and the Future of Climate Change

Though the Climate Stewardship Act failed to pass in Congress, John McCain is confident the future has good things in store for climate change.

| February/March 2004

The Climate Stewardship Act didn't make it through Congress last fall, but the environment may still prove the winner. The first attempt by Congress to address the threat of global warming since 1998, the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, failed to pass the Senate by a narrow margin, but Sen. John McCain says he may reintroduce the legislation as early as this spring.

McCain and the bill's co-sponsor, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut, say they are encouraged by the support the failed bill received; the vote was a close 43-55. "We lost a battle today," McCain said, "but we'll win over time because climate change is real. And we will overcome the influence of special interests over time."

The Climate Stewardship Act would cap carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants, oil companies and factories, and create an emissions trading system under which companies that achieve more pollution reductions than required can sell their excess reductions to other companies to help them meet their commitments.

The aim of the legislation is to begin solving the problem of global warming, which poses a wide range of threats to the environment, the economy and public health. Carbon dioxide, produced by the combustion of coal, oil and natural gas, is the most abundant of the green house gases, which are responsible for raising the Earth's surface temperature. Scientists predict global warming will cause species extinctions, rising sea levels, an increase in deaths from extreme heat, and the migration of tropical diseases northward.

Kevin Curtis, National Environmental Trust vice president of government affairs and a supporter of the McCain-Lieberman legislation, says three weeks before the October vote, the bill reportedly only had 32 votes firmly supporting it and more than a dozen senators still on the fence. "Our fear was that the bill might pull in fewer than 40 votes," he says, which would have doomed it for the foreseeable future. "But the majority of the undecided senators broke in favor of the bill."

According to information from McCain's office, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study estimated the legislation would cost only about $20 per household. Analysts predicted the impact on the U.S. GNP at no more than 0.01 percent. A second study by the Boston-based Thellus Institute predicted that if the bill becomes law, it will reduce U.S. energy demands and save U.S. residents $48 billion by 2020.

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