Why We Can't Wait for a New President to Solve Global Warming

I travel a lot for my job. I sit through a lot of meetings, not all of them riveting. It can be exhausting work, but there is one very powerful force that drives me: urgency. 

I used to think that we could curb global warming in time so that my grandchildren wouldn’t have to face dangerous impacts like punishing droughts and spreading wildfires. Yet already my generation is confronting these very impacts right now, and if we don’t act fast, my daughters’ generation will really pay the price.  

A stream of scientific reports released in the past six months 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. Three weeks ago, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change--the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize along with Gore--released its final report

Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, 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. Some people say, “Let’s wait to pass a global warming law until we get a new president.” But we can’t even wait that long. 

We have to start moving today. I would like to see a bill that will curb greenhouse gases by 80 percent by 2050. The Lieberman Warner bill gets us heading down that road. (See an analysis of the bill by my colleague Dan Lashof and others.) 

It calls for a 15 percent reduction in global warming pollution by 2020. It gets us moving fast right out of the gate, which is the only way we will ever reach the 80 percent reduction we need. The bill will be voted on in the Environment and Public Works Committee this week.  We need the Committee to bring it to the Senate Floor now. 

Because you can’t say global warming is one of the biggest threats facing the planet and then wait until next year to tackle it. We have to start right now with the tools we have.