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[greenyes] Global Warming and Republican Activity
GRIST

On the Right Track
New Republican leaders emerging in battle against climate change
By Amanda Griscom Little
04 Feb 2005
Last week, an international task force co-chaired by Republican Sen. Olympia 
Snowe (Maine) predicted a fast-approaching "point of no return" for climate 
change -- possibly in as few as 10 years -- after which the crisis and its 
symptoms will be irreversible.


Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).You probably didn't read about it in the U.S. 
papers, which largely ignored the findings -- just as you probably haven't 
been reading much about the Kyoto Protocol, though the treaty will go into 
effect in less than two weeks, with the conspicuous noncooperation of the 
world's most heavily polluting nation.

But, even as the Bush administration tries its darndest to pretend that 
nothing fishy is afoot with the climate, a handful of Republicans in the 
Senate are emerging as leaders in the fight against global warming -- and we 
don't just mean John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Take, for instance, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who led the congressional 
fight to reject Kyoto in 1997, opposes the McCain-Lieberman Climate 
Stewardship Act, and consistently supports the Bush administration's stance 
(or lack thereof) on global warming. Not an impressive record -- and yet 
Hagel is now declaring climate change a "top-tier issue," says his 
spokesperson Mike Buttry, and is preparing to introduce "one of the most 
comprehensive climate bills that have been proposed to date. It will have a 
domestic piece, an international piece, and a tax piece."

Hagel told his home-state paper, the Lincoln Journal Star, that his bill, 
which will be introduced in February, is compatible with the new climate 
strategy being cooked up by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. These remarks 
came soon after the senator met with Blair to discuss an idea for an 
international agreement dubbed by some insiders "Kyoto-lite," which the P.M. 
is reportedly crafting with the hope that President Bush will get on board. 
The agreement as envisioned would require the administration to acknowledge 
the scale of the climate crisis and commit to developing the technology 
necessary to manage it. No mention thus far of mandatory limits on 
greenhouse-gas emissions -- presumably that's why Blair thinks Bush might go 
for it. Likewise, Hagel's bill includes no compulsory emissions caps --  
rather, it's "incentive-based," says Buttry.


Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.).According to David Doniger, policy director of the 
Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Hagel may be trying 
to use the climate issue to his political advantage: "He wants to position 
himself between Bush and McCain in preparation for 2008." Rumor has it that 
Hagel may make a run for president, and thus he's trying to show leadership 
on climate change without ruffling any right-wing feathers.

Doniger doesn't think Hagel is going nearly far enough. "If you recognize 
the existence of the problem but don't endorse what needs to be done about 
it, you don't deserve credit," he says.

But the fact that a senator with presidential ambitions believes it is to 
his political advantage to take on climate change is itself a mark of 
progress. Hagel's actions pose a strong challenge to Republican naysayers 
like Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who last month dismissed global warming as 
a giant hoax.

Hagel's meeting with Blair also indicates a growing acceptance among 
Republicans that the U.S. needs to collaborate internationally on climate 
change. At the very least, the Nebraska senator will stoke the debate on 
Capitol Hill with upcoming public appearances focusing on climate change, 
such as the presentation he is scheduled to make at a Brookings Institution 
briefing next week, alongside Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
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