We Need Climate Solutions, Not a Costly Status Quo

Last week, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act fell short of being passed by the Senate. It was an historic moment, in which the United States faced two choices: to accept the responsibility of limiting our carbon emissions for the sake of our economy, our culture, and our lives, or to maintain the status quo at considerable expense. Unfortunately, they chose the status quo.

And yet, there is good news. As Dan Lashof noted a few days ago, “the process of bringing the Climate Security Act to the U.S. Senate floor advanced the prospects for enacting the federal legislation we need to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.”

When the next president takes office, the debate over climate change will start again, but this time from a considerably stronger position. 54 Senators – a majority – voiced their support for moving forward with the first stand-alone climate bill to reach the Senate floor. The rest were forced to consider climate legislation, some for the first time.

For NRDC, the failure of the bill to pass has raised the question of how do we continue to raise climate awareness, and guarantee the passage of the climate bill next year. I’m sure many environmental organizations are asking the same thing.

In answering this question, we should look at the status quo. For instance, are our communities designed for humans, or for cars? Is our electrical system designed to provide us with what we want – efficient lights and refrigerators – or to support the power companies?

A recent report makes clear that the cost of inaction is greater than action, to the tune of 3.6 percent of GDP – or $3.8 trillion annually in today’s dollars – by 2100. Another report shows that climate legislation would add additional green jobs, and would help America make the transition to a more efficient, low-carbon economy.

That our Senators prevented the passage of the climate bill that would have done nothing but improve our economy, our ecology, and our health was unreasonable, to say nothing of being irresponsible.

And so I would urge everyone to call their Senators and Congressmen and encourage them to vote on behalf of climate change legislation. Call your families in swing states and ask them to call their representatives. To repeat what I’ve said before, we need action – and action on a massive scale.

Some leading politicians are beginning to understand this need – in large part because of the debate over the Climate Security Act. Last week, David Doniger told The New York Times that if we don’t “get it done this year…we start next year just a few steps from the finish line.” Senator Boxer echoed this sentiment, when she said, “We have a road map as to where our colleagues are. We will give the road map to the next president so he knows where our colleagues are and where are the consensus areas and where are the difficult areas.”

Of the presumptive presidential nominees, John McCain has indicated that climate change is a top priority. In reference to climate change, Barack Obama has said, “The future of our planet is at stake.”

It's time for solutions.