Last Wednesday, May 12 2010, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) introduced their draaft of a climate change bill into the Senate.  Entitled the American Power Act, the draft bill seeks to cap carbon emissions in the United States, and expand funding for carbon sequestration, public transit, and clean-energy research and development.  The bill, if it makes it to the Senate floor and if it can be reconciled with the cap-and-trade bill already in the Senate, would be the first to produce some legislation that would move the United States to making efforts to reduce our impact on climate change.

While this bill still has many many hurdles to get over before it could become actual law (co-drafter Sen. Lindsey Graham already pulled his name from the draft, saying that now was not the best time as the government needs to focus on immigration and the oil spill in the Gulf. He still maintains his support for the bill however), it is a significant step forward.  Many in the international community have chastised the United States for not acting on climate change when we are one of the biggest producers of greenhouse gases.  This draft at least shows that we are intent on taking some kind of action.

Dsvid Schimke, editor for Utne Reader magazine, wrote an op-ed in the May-June 2010 issue discussing the need for Americans to take action.  He argues that we should all attend AA meetings to remind ourselves of the fact that we have a hand in how this all plays out.  He cites a reference to a 2009 article in the Sacremento New Review entitled “Do Our Children Deserve to Live?” that discusses the impact that our decisions and actions will have on future generations.  There has always been talk about the impact on future generations, and trying to make the world a better place.  This is the first time that without action, there may not be a place for future generations.  The potential impact is much greater.

While this bill is certainly a step forward, it is not perfect.  It promotes the use of cap and trade policies, which the environmental community agrees will do nothing to stop emissions.  These policies function on the principle of capping carbon emissions, and then allowing companies that produce fewer emissions than the cap to trade the leftover to other companies.  The hope is that this will give the bigger companies more time to implement expensive plans to reduce their emission and ‘go green.’  However, the plan doesn’t give a timeline or anything like that to limit how long these companies can go without switching to green technologies — essentially allowing them to buy carbon emissions forever.

The proposed bill also does not include where the funding will come from, which will be another huge hurdle for the bill to get over.  Climate funding for the international community has stunted the ability of the international accords and agreements to move much past the international statement portion of the action.

While there are many other things I could point out that could be better in the bill, I do support it as a necessary step forward in convincing people that climate change is a problem, it does exist, and we can do something about it.  Now more than ever it is important to remember that this is a time sensitive subject, and will require more than small actions. More people are convinced that climate change is not happening now than 10 years ago, thanks in part to the media’s love affair with the ‘debate’ and controversy over the subject. Denial of the fact that climate change is happening is only making things worse — like David Schimke points out in his article, any AA member can tell you that denial is just a step in the process but the important thing is to come out the other side recognizing the problem.  We need a wake up call (although how the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico isn’t a wake up call, I don’t know) that takes us to step 12: ” Having a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts [climate change disbelievers] and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” We need to set an example that is visible!