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The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions seeks to inform the design and implementation of federal policies that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Drawing from its extensive peer-reviewed published works, in-house policy analyses, and tracking of current legislative proposals, the Center provides research, analysis, and recommendations to policymakers in Congress and the Executive Branch. Read More
 

Consumers and global climate will win with new vehicle standards

As early as this week, the federal government will announce what is likely the largest move ever to save oil. If last year’s proposal becomes final, as expected, the fuel economy of a typical new car will go up by more than 70 percent by 2025. The standards will improve how far cars and trucks travel on a gallon of gas even more than the original corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, enacted by Congress in 1975.

The new passenger vehicle standards for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions are also the single largest move by the federal government to address climate change. Three critical factors made this possible: consumer commitment, technological progress, and smart public policy.

Should wind tax credit stay or go?

I recently responded to a question on the National Journal blog, "Should Congress extend the production tax credit for wind energy or let it expire at year's end?"

Agreeing on the problem, if not the solution

Despite the very different views of the majority and minority parties in the Senate, there was in fact a fair degree of agreement among the witnesses at today’s hearing on climate science and local adaptation.

During the climate science portion of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, both the majority and minority witnesses agreed that the Earth has warmed over the past 120 years. With the recent publication of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project by former skeptic Richard Muller, there are now four (NOAA, NASA and Hadley are the others) major global temperature records that are in agreement that the Earth has warmed 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 50 years.

Business and government start preparing for climate impacts

Today’s Senate hearing isn’t just about the science of climate change. It’s also about the actions that need to be taken now to adapt to the reality of a changing climate. Businesses and governments each have a critical role to play in building resilient communities and economies.

Business-as-usual is already being interrupted by extreme heat, historic drought, record-setting wildfires, and flooding. Events from water shortages to floods are disrupting the supply chains for such companies as Honda, Toyota, Kraft, Nestle and MillerCoors. By the end of 2011, the United States had recorded more billion-dollar disasters than it did during all of the 1980s, totaling about $55 billion in losses.

Senate gets back to climate science

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing tomorrow called “Update on the Latest Climate Change Science and Local Adaptation Measures.” This is the first Senate hearing focused directly on climate science in the 112th Congress, and we hope it won’t be the last. Climate change is happening, the news from peer-reviewed science is increasingly daunting, and the public needs to hear what credible scientists are learning about the risks and potential solutions.

Congress Finally Reforms Flood Insurance

Late last week, in a heartening display of bicameral and bipartisan harmony, Congress passed a bill reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and taking steps to steer it toward solvency. Among those steps is ensuring that climate impact projections are factored into future calculations of flood risk.

The Climate Stewardship Acts

The Climate Stewardship Acts were a series of acts introduced in the 108th United States Congress. Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and John McCain (R-AZ) introduced the first bill in 2003. It was followed in 2004 by a House companion of the bill introduced by Representatives Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and John W. Olver (D-MA). Starting in 2010, the bills would have capped greenhouse gas emissions of the electricity generation, transportation, industrial, and commercial economic sectors at the 2000 level, while providing for market-based trading of emission allowances.

 

Understanding the Climate Stewardship Acts

 

Additional Resources

Legislation in the 112th Congress Related to Global Climate Change

More than 100 bills, resolutions, and amendments focusing on climate change were introduced in the 112th Congress (2011-2012). Many more touched on energy, environment, transportation, agriculture and other areas that would have an impact on climate change. The list below, however, contains only those bills whose authors thought it was important to explicitly reference climate change or related terms, such as greenhouse gases (GHG) or carbon dioxide. (For brevity, all legislative proposals are referred to here as "bills.")

Reflecting an anti-regulatory mood on Capitol Hill, there were nearly as many proposals in the 112th Congress to block efforts to curb carbon emissions as proposals to strengthen them. And, reflecting the general state of gridlock in Congress, virtually none of the bills proposed were enacted.

A closer look:

  • 113 climate-specific bills were introduced in the 112th Congress. This compares with 263 such bills introduced in the Congress before this one, 235 in the Congress before that, and 106, 96, 80, 25, and seven, respectively, in the Congressional terms before that.
  • 57 of the bills (52 percent) supported climate action in some way. However, for the first time since the introduction of the McCain-Lieberman greenhouse gas cap-and-trade bill in 2003, not a single greenhouse gas cap-and-trade bill was introduced. Most took much smaller steps, such as preparing the United States to adapt to climate change or preserving voluntary greenhouse gas reduction programs in a bill that would otherwise block the Environmental Protection Agency's climate change work. The two bills that proposed a comprehensive approach to reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would have established a carbon tax. (Two of the bills mentioned greenhouse gases without clearly supporting or hindering climate action.)
  • 55 bills would have blocked or hindered climate action – 40 of which would have prohibited or hindered regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily by preventing EPA from regulating under the Clean Air Act. Four of these passed the House, with no prospects for movement through the Senate. For its part, the Senate voted on four bills to prevent, delay or modify EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, all of which failed.

Perhaps the most significant law enacted by this Congress addressing climate change is not on the list below because it does not mention the words "climate change" at all – the reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program. Among other things, the bill, signed into law by President Obama, seeks to ensure that "the best available science regarding future changes in sea levels, precipitation, and intensity of hurricanes" are factored into future calculations of flood risk. Our blog notes that the bill is a good first step toward comprehensive reform that will bring the program back to solvency.

In addition, a bill that would combine House and Senate energy efficiency measures passed the Senate on its last day before the elections and was signed by President Obama in December 2012.

The bills, resolutions, and amendments of the 112th Congress dealing with climate change are divided into the following categories:

A Green Light for Regulating GHGs under the Clean Air Act

In a resounding victory for sound science and policy, the US Court of Appeals decided unanimously this week to uphold both EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare and the agency’s initial set of regulations limiting emissions from vehicles and major new and modified industrial sources.

Given the choice, we’d much prefer to see a new law establishing a comprehensive market-based program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But until Congress gets its act together, regulating emissions under the Clean Air Act is really the only option.

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