Climate Change Bill Delayed

With so much focus on climate talks at the Group of 8 Summit in Italy, you might have missed the snag in U.S. climate change legislation that surfaced yesterday. Senator Barbara Boxer (left), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced that work on a climate bill will be postponed until September.

The move came as a surprise, especially as Boxer had set an early August deadline for crafting a bill that would drastically reduce emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the coming decades. The House narrowly passed its version on June 26.

Reuters reports that when asked if the delay jeopardizes chances of the Senate passing a bill in 2009, as President Obama has been pushing for, Boxer said:

"Not a bit ... we'll be in (session) until Christmas, so I'm not worried about it."

But Boxer did not guarantee Congress will be able to finish a bill and deliver it to Obama by December, when he plans to attend an international summit on climate change in Copenhagen. "I want to take this as far as we can take it (before Copenhagen). The more we do the better," Boxer said.

Boxer didn't give an explanation for the postponement, but media outlets are speculating that it could be that healthcare reform or the highway trust fund are taking top priority, or that Dems are worried about scrounging up enough votes, or that the committee needs more time to write the legislation. Or some combination of these factors.

If the delay means that the committee crafts better legislation, then great. But the legislation they pass won't be perfect—it'll have to be tweaked and refined over time. And given the urgency of cutting our emissions, and the fact that even today only 49% of the public believes global warming is caused by human activity (compared to 84% of scientists, the latest Pew poll found), we need swift action from our leaders.

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