McCain parts company with president on climate change
Sen. John McCain on May 12 split sharply with President Bush over climate change, saying that as president he would not permit “eight long years” to pass without taking action.’
Targeting an array of Democrats, independents, evangelicals and Christian conservatives — all of whom place climate change near the top of their priority lists — Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, lashed Mr. Bush for his failure to offer an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty to reduce greenhouse gases that the Senate rebuffed in July 1997 on a vote of 95-0.
“I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges. I will not accept the same dead-end of failed diplomacy that claimed Kyoto,” he said in a speech at a wind-power plant in Oregon.
“The United States will lead and will lead with a different approach — an approach that speaks to the interests and obligations of every nation,” he said.
Democrats derided Mr. McCain’s record, charging that he takes political contributions from energy lobbyists and has occasionally voted against alternateenergy sources.
“Senator McCain’s campaign rhetoric on the environment means nothing when he’s willing to give his donors sweetheart deals and appoint right-wing judges bent on gutting environmental regulations, which is one more reason he is the wrong choice for America’s future,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said.
Sen. Barack Obama, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, accused the Republican of double-speak on the issue.
“It is truly breathtaking for John McCain to talk about combating climate change while voting against virtually every recent effort to actually invest in clean energy,” he said.
“In stark contrast, I’ve called for a national standard to ensure that we’re using more renewable energy, an expansion of our green energy sector that would create millions of green jobs, and a bipartisan plan to double our fuelefficiency standards,” Mr. Obama said.
But Mr. McCain offered a pragmatic answer to what some scientists say is man’s role in the warming of the planet, arguing that even if he is wrong, moving toward lower-emission vehicles and reducing greenhouse gases still would benefit the environment.
“You would think that if the polar bears, walruses and sea birds have the good sense to respond to new conditions and new dangers, then humanity can respond as well,” he said.
Mr. McCain’s major proposal is to implement a “cap-and-trade” program on carbon-fuel emissions, similar to a program in the Clean Air Act that was used to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions that trigger acid rain.
The Arizona senator said he thinks that market forces can drive industries toward greener energy sources. Industries would be given emission targets, and those coming in under their limit could sell their surplus polluting capacity to companies not able to meet their target.
Mr. McCain wants the country to return to 2005 emission levels by 2012; 1990 levels by 2020; and to a level 60 percent below that by 2050.
“As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve or acquire alternatives to carbonbased energy,” he said. “More likely, however, there will be some companies that need extra emissions rights, and they will be able to buy them. The system to meet these targets and timetables will give these companies extra time to adapt — and that is good economic policy.”
Mr. McCain’s stance on climate change sets him apart from his party’s conservative base, which remains skeptical about the science on climate change. And his stance puts him at odds with Mr. Bush, who has offered no alternative to Kyoto. But both think that a global accord on climate change holds little weight if it does not put strict limits on fast-growing China and India.
Mr. McCain promised to challenge the two nations. “For all of its historical disregard of environmental standards, it cannot have escaped the attention of the Chinese regime that China’s skies are dangerously polluted, its beautiful rivers are dying, its grasslands vanishing, its coastlines receding and its own glaciers melting,” he said.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain speaks May 12 at Vestas Wind Technology training facility in Portland, Ore., where he promised to take action against global warming.