Climate Change Bill Could Be the Most Historic Legislation in a Generation

Posted June 25, 2009 at 1:15pm

For the first time in our nation’s history, we are on the verge of enacting unprecedented climate and energy legislation that will put America back to work, transition the U.S. to clean, affordable energy, and make us safer while lessening our dependence on foreign oil.

[IMGCAP(1)]The American Clean Energy and Security Act gives promise of being the most historic legislation Congress will pass in a generation. We’ve seen climate policies debated by our leaders and thwarted by opponents for decades. More than 30 years of inaction has driven up household energy costs, threatened our national security, compromised our economy and, of course, continues to devastate our planet.

As a former chairman of the House Science Committee, I can attest to the fact that climate change is real. That’s not just my opinion, it reflects the overwhelming scientific consensus at home and abroad. It’s happening now and we are feeling the effects today. Inaction promises dire consequences for all of our tomorrows.

A recent landmark federal report released by the White House and produced by 13 federal science agencies highlights the current impacts of climate change on the U.S. Among its findings — failure to enact immediate solutions to the climate crisis will lead to more frequent and intense heat waves, more severe storms and flooding, and rising sea levels. The negative impact will be felt in every sector of our economy.

Taking bold action to solve this climate crisis is not a partisan issue. All of us, no matter what our political stripe, have a moral obligation to be part of enacting solutions. Political leaders of both parties have stepped forward in support of climate change policy and the importance of acting now.

The Governors Climate Change Task Force comprises members as diverse as Charlie Crist (R) of Florida, Jennifer Granholm (D) of Michigan, Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) of California and Jon Huntsman Jr. (R) of Utah. These prominent governors — both Republican and Democrat — have joined forces in recognition that the solutions to the climate crisis can be the best medicine for an ailing economy.

Investing in a clean energy economy will create millions of jobs, many in some of our most battered industries: reviving our struggling manufacturing sector and recasting an automotive industry for the next generation. And these are jobs that can’t be outsourced. American businesses agree. Companies such as Duke Energy, Johnson & Johnson and Caterpillar Inc. have come out in support of legislation requiring significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate protection is good for more than just business; it helps struggling families as well. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that ACES would only cost the average American household a mere 48 cents per day — approximately the cost of one postage stamp. And while our average annual household energy expenditures rose approximately $1,000 between 2001 and 2007, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimated that the energy efficiency provisions in ACES could save American households an average of $750 by 2020 and $3,900 by 2030.

These are savings to American families that are much needed and, with improved energy efficiency standards, will continue to provide added savings well into the future — boosting our use of clean energy as well as our global competitiveness.

President Barack Obama, in a recent news conference, said, “The nation that leads in the creation of a clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century’s global economy.— China is investing heavily in renewable energy technologies, as are others in Europe, Asia and elsewhere around the globe. We can’t afford to lag behind. With the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December, it’s imperative that the U.S. develop a framework for mitigating the effects of climate change so as to help lead the way for other nations to follow suit.

People of all political persuasions must share in the responsibility of solving the climate crisis. Our economy, our national security, our global competitiveness, our future generations, our planet can no longer afford to wait.

Former Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) served in Congress from 1983 to 2007.