Five Reasons We Need a Senate Climate Vote Now

There is a solid global warming bill making its way through the Senate right now, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. Some people say it may have a hard time getting the needed 60 votes in the Senate. Some people say we should wait on global warming legislation until we have the presidential election or even the next Congressional election. I think they are wrong.

We have to bring this global warming bill to a vote now and here are five reasons why.

 1. Global warming is an urgent crisis.

A stream of scientific reports released in the past year has declared that the effects of global warming are descending upon the planet much faster than anticipated. Climate modelers used to say that we could avoid the worst effects if we slashed global warming pollution by 2050, then it was 2040, then 2030.

But now we don’t even have that much time. Recently Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, announced:


“If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future.”


The message is clear: we have to act now. 


2. Lieberman-Warner gets us off to a fast start.

Scientists concur that we have to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Lieberman-Warner gets us on a strong trajectory quickly: it calls for a 15 percent reduction by 2020 and a 70 percent reduction by 2050.

A rapid start is critical, given the terrible urgency of the scientific warnings. We must act now. The science tells us that a slow start will lead to a crash finish.

 3. Lieberman-Warner lays out a good cap-and-trade system.

The bill creates the architecture we will need to cap and trade carbon dioxide emissions in a market-based structure. Most significantly, Lieberman-Warner calls for ramping up the auctioning of carbon allowances and using the money for public purposes, such as helping consumers deal with rate increases and promoting energy efficiency.

In 2005, the European Union launched its cap-and-trade system and decided to give away all the allowances instead of auction them. The result? A roughly 20 billion Euro bonus to the utility industry. No money was generated for public programs; it all went private.

Lieberman-Warner’s structure still needs some work. We will be pushing for amendments that make it stronger and oppose ones that make it weaker when the bill comes to the floor.

4. We need to know where our senators stand.

It is hard to hold our representatives responsible if we don’t know where they stand. The last time a climate bill came to a vote was back in 2003. That’s five years ago, before An Inconvenient Truth, before Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize, before the IPCC released its final reports confirming we have little time to act. Back then, 43 senators supported the bill. We need to know how the senate landscape has changed since then. If we bring Lieberman-Warner to a vote, we will find out who supports taking strong action to protect America from the dangerous impacts of global warming and who doesn’t.

 5. We have to keep solutions in the forefront of Americans’ minds.

Polls show that the majority of American people believe global warming is an important issue, but they are uncertain about how we can confront it. Lieberman-Warner offers a positive, fast-moving approach to dealing with this crisis. The more media coverage--and the more votes--the bill receives, the more Americans will learn about the many global warming solutions we have available to us.

 We can’t say that global warming is the humanitarian and ecological crisis of our time, and then wait to solve it until we have a new president or we have the perfect bill. We have to put legislation to the test today.

The Lieberman/Warner bill will come up for vote in early June. Contact your senators now and tell them what you think of it.