The Associated Press, April 24, 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia says dealing with climate change is a national security issue that must be addressed.
But Warner told a House panel there will be "a rough road ahead" if greenhouse gases are to be reduced. He cautioned against moving too quickly when technology to curtail heat-trapping emissions may not be available.
Still, Warner said future generations will judge what lawmakers do -- or not do -- today to address global warming.
He said the issues of climate change, energy and national security are interwoven and can't be ignored. Warner joined former Vice President Al Gore in appearing before the Energy and Commerce subcommittee which is considering a bill to cut greenhouse pollution.
Former Vice President Al Gore, the leading American voice on climate change, urged lawmakers Friday to overcome partisan differences and take action to reduce greenhouse gases, calling the climate issue the most important ever before Congress.
Gore told a House hearing that the Democratic bill that would limit carbon dioxide and other pollution linked to a warming of the earth will simultaneously solve the problems of the climate, economy and national security.
"We are, along with the rest of humanity, facing the dire and growing threat of the climate crisis," said Gore, who argued that Congress must act to "restore America's leadership of the world and begin, at long last, to solve the climate crisis."
Gore, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on global warming, has for more than a dozen years championed the need to address climate change.
The former Tennessee congressman and senator described the bill before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as "one of the most important pieces of legislation ever introduced in the Congress." It calls for a reduction of greenhouse gases by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by mid-century. It also would require utilities to produce a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
Gore's backing comes after three days of hearings where experts, Republicans and moderate Democrats expressed concern that the bill, which would establish a cap-and-trade system to cut emissions, will drive up energy costs.
Gore rejected any conflict between addressing global warming and economic well-being. But he urged the House panel to make sure the bill includes provisions to protect people who will unfairly face hardships, such as workers in energy-intensive industries who could lose their jobs and those who face higher energy bills.
He offered the panel a litany of examples of what rising temperatures are already doing to the planet. He spoke of Arctic warming, melting Greenland ice sheets, and how increasingly acidic seas are striking seashells and coral reefs with a type of osteoporosis.
Gore's celebrity on the issue of climate change could generate much needed public support for the legislation after three days of panels and testimony and more than 50 witnesses espousing on the nitty-gritty details of the 648-page draft bill.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and former Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who co-sponsored climate legislation in the Senate last year, also were scheduled to testify.
Gingrich, who led a Republican-dominated House from 1995-1999, still isn't convinced that human activities are the leading cause for global warming. He was added to the lineup late Thursday at the request of Republicans. But he has urged conservatives that they should play a role in crafting climate and energy policy.
Gingrich last year appeared in a commercial sitting beside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that was paid for by Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection. In it, Gingrich said that while he doesn't always see eye to eye with Pelosi, "we do agree our country must take action to address climate change."
Warner will argue that the climate bill should do more to address national security and that if it did it would garner more public support.
Warner has been a strong advocate for mandatory action to reduce greenhouse gases. But his bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., as well as Democrats, failed to get enough votes in the Senate to break a GOP filibuster. That debate, like much of the discussion this week before the House committee, focused on bitter disagreement over the expected economic costs, and similar arguments have been made this week.