It seems the wacky weather here in Ann Arbor and other parts of the country has at last compelled politicians to finally face global warming – a reality they’ve so far been content to let Al Gore trumpet alone. Last week Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced plans to form a committee on global warming in the House to investigate ways to curb greenhouse emissions and research alternative energy sources. This announcement by the new Democratic leadership is a welcome addition to its already ambitious agenda and has the potential to make a real difference in the near future – as long as the menaces of inter- and intra-party rivalries are held at bay.
Pelosi has said that the new committee, chaired by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), will hear legislative proposals on how to achieve energy independence and reverse global warming. It’s no coincidence that this issue has come to the forefront under the Democrats’ watch. The Bush Administration and its congressional allies have kept their head in the sand about this issue for years, even as more and more damning evidence of its drastic impacts is presented. As such, America is light years behind the rest of the world in certain environmental standards, remaining one of only two industrialized nations to hold out on the Kyoto Protocol. When American companies can’t sell some cars in China because they fail to meet emissions standards, it ought to be painfully clear that fresh minds are absolutely vital for bringing this country up to speed.
However, the nascent committee will have to push hard in Congress to hammer together a bill by the July 4 target. Even within the Democratic party, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) expressed doubt as to whether the committee will accomplish anything. Dingell feels that the issue is best handled by the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which he chairs. While his argument may have merit, denial is no longer an effective way of dealing with the oncoming climate crisis, and implementing tougher standards is a giant feather in the Democrats’ cap – and it couldn’t have been timed better.
The new committee will do its work before the thick of the approaching 2008 campaign season completely occupies Washington, and it could force the issue into the heart of the campaign, where it belongs. Stonewalling from congressional Republicans is expected, and, of course, the Bush Administration, can only be overcome by unity on the Democratic side.
An issue that matters as much as global warming must be dealt with in the immediate present, and the announcement of this committee reinforces that point. Ann Arbor and other cities and states have already shown a commitment to environmental stability, and it is time for the federal government to do the same. President Bush could be forced to compromise with Democrats and adopt a more prudent environmental policy, something the nation has sorely missed in these days of energy policies written by energy company lobbyists.
In a time when the Bush Administration has been hounded on by critics over the mess it continues to stir in Iraq, it’s reassuring to see the Congress take up an important domestic issue. At the very least it will make global warming even more visible and push it into the 2008 spotlight. It should also strongly challenge the Bush Administration into action on an issue we can no longer afford to neglect or undermine.