Will Members Embrace Science and the Need for Real Pollution Limits?

WASHINGTON (May 12, 2006) -- Members of the U.S. House of Representatives next week face a fateful vote next week that may have repercussions for generations to come. Will they, or won't they, confront the truth on global warming?

Barring behind-the-scenes machinations to prevent the question from reaching the House floor, lawmakers will vote to accept or reject a resolution that not only recognizes the dangers of global warming but also calls for mandatory limits to cut the pollution that causes it.

The Senate last June adopted an identical resolution, and the House Appropriations Committee did so on Wednesday.

The full House should follow suit --- and reject the efforts of members with close ties to the nation's heaviest polluters, like Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who has vowed to strip the "Sense of the Congress" resolution from a funding bill passed this week by the appropriations committee.

Barton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has long fought efforts to curb global warming. Last year, he even launched an investigation that was widely seen as an effort to intimidate mainstream climate scientists.

"House members who oppose this resolution are still clinging to the discredited White House line that global warming can be solved by voluntary action alone," said David Doniger, Climate Center policy director at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). "But even most industry leaders have moved on. They understand that global warming is real and that we need real limits on the pollution that causes it."

Just last month, executives from General Electric, Wal-Mart, Duke Energy, Exelon (among others) told the Senate Energy Committee that they now accept the science and are ready to embrace mandatory emission limits. And they said voluntary programs won't work because businesses need certainty and clear market signals in order to make sensible investments in new power plants and other equipment that will last 50 years.

The looming House vote comes amid a rising chorus demand mandatory limits on the emission of greenhouse gases that cause global warming action. And those calls are growing by the day. Poll after poll finds that a strong majority of Americans understands that global warming is a real threat and they want their government to act.

Earlier this year, evangelical Christian leaders called for global warming pollution cuts. State and city governments from coast to coast are also taking action to fight global warming. Last month, Maryland became the eighth state to join a global warming pollution pact among northeast governors. California and 10 other states have set limits on global warming pollution from motor vehicles. Earlier this week, the Alaska legislature passed the state's first global warming law, creating a commission to investigate the cost of global warming impacts and recommend actions. Florida has created a similar commission. And more than 200 cities have joined the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.

"The American people get it," said Doniger. "Now is the moment of truth for the people's elected representatives."

The showdown in the House was set in motion on Wednesday when the House Appropriations Committee on a voice vote approved the global warming resolution, which was offered by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), as a part of the Interior and Environment appropriations bill.

"That vote was the latest indication of serious congressional movement on global warming," Doniger said. "A majority of the Senate and a traditionally conservative House committee are now on record supporting mandatory global warming limits. The rest of the House members should stand up and be counted."