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Whither Climate Policy?

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 11, 2012

When I first graduated from law school, I worked for a Republican Member of Congress as a legislative counsel. During my tenure on the Hill I became friends with Sherwood Boehlert, the Chief of Staff for another Republican Congressman. I stayed here in Washington and Sherry Boehlert moved back to New York where he was elected to Congress for twelve terms. He chaired the House Science Committee and was a Republican leader on issues such as water quality, infrastructure, and energy efficiency.

I raise Congressman Boehlert's name for two reasons. One is because he recently penned an editorial in the New York Times decrying the Republican party's apparent disregard for the science behind the climate change issue, and secondly because I believe this aversion to dealing with climate by both parties is having the unintended consequence of slowing our existing energy efficiency initiatives just when they need to be accelerated.

Proposed 2012 budget cuts in Department of Energy and EPA programs such as Energy Star, State Energy Programs, Building Energy Codes and Federal Energy Management are indicative of retrenching when we should in fact be moving forward. A proposed bill introduced by Senators Shaheen (D-NH) and Portman (R-OH), Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011 contains a broad package of low-cost tools that would reduce barriers for businesses, homeowners and consumers looking to adopt off-the-shelf energy efficiency technologies that will save them money. A broad coalition including PIMA supports this bill but serious questions remain as to whether this Congress will address energy efficiency in any comprehensive manner.

Which brings me back to climate policy. Reasonable people can disagree on the best way to address this issue. What is truly disturbing is how many elected officials have decided to ignore 97% of the world's climate scientists and our country's own National Academy of Sciences, who have recently concluded that "scientific evidence that the earth is warming is now overwhelming.”

As Congressman Boehlert points out in his editorial, Ronald Reagan trusted science and moved the country toward a worldwide phase out of ozone depleting chemicals. Ignoring climate as a key driver for our need to enhance energy efficiency in the U.S. is a little like trying to climb the top of Mt. Everest with no oxygen mask- you may get to the top without it but the journey is more secure with it.

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