McCain parts com­pany with pres­i­dent on cli­mate change

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Joseph Curl

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.

As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

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