Environmental Defense recently compared acting vs. waiting over on Grist. Their conclusion:
The long-term target in the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act is not at the level that the best science recommends, but its near-term cap is aggressive -- more aggressive than any other proposal currently filed with Congress.
As I wrote earlier, long-term targets aren't etched in stone. We have time to make them stronger. But short-term targets are critical because the science is unforgiving. The longer we wait to get started, the deeper the cuts must be to avoid environmental catastrophe.
The worst thing we can do for our economy and our environment is to pass no legislation at all. The second worst thing we can do is delay -- by even two years. If we start now and decrease emissions slowly, we can minimize the pain of shifting to a low-carbon economy. If we delay, we won't have the luxury of gradual change. And at some point, if we continue to delay, it will become impossible to cut emissions quickly enough to avoid the tipping point.
That "pain of shifting" is exactly what I try to get across to my Virginia legislators on the coal plant. If we lock ourselves into spending at least $1.8 billion on a shiny new coal plant, we're also locking ourselves into 50 years of rising power bills, mountaintop decapitation, and lost opportunity to invest in clean energy. Once Dominion Virginia Power breaks ground on that plant, unless we decide to write off that $1.8 billion as sunk cost, it doesn't matter what happens on Capitol Hill -- Virginia's carbon emissions are going up.
The Department of Environmental Quality hearings on the coal plant are going on right now. Dominion is busing people in to speak at the hearings and groups like the Chesapeake Climate Action Network are desperately rallying opposition, turning out hundreds of people in opposition.
If the Climate Security Act can overcome Sen. Inhofe's filibuster and even pass the House to have the honor of being vetoed by the Worst President Ever, it will send a loud message to Gov. Tim Kaine and General Assembly Democrats -- climate action is inevitable. Prepare Virginia's economy now. Might that be enough to convince Gov. Kaine to come out against the plant?
But let's say waiting wins out. Let's say the Climate Security Act is not just filibustered by global warming deniers, but loses support from liberals because they're holding out for that abstract something better. Let's say it fails to even get a majority. Let's say the House doesn't even vote on climate legislation this year (the House wouldn't waste its time on something the Senate wouldn't pass and the President wouldn't sign).
What message does that send to Richmond? Why should officials worry about federal climate legislation if there's so little common ground on Capitol Hill?
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