John D. Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, gave a talk last week to National Association of State Treasures. Here are some key points:
You have seen the overdue shift in the global warming debate: from whether climate change is real to a sense of urgency about how to address it.
The science and the economics are conclusive: doing nothing about global warming presents a far greater cost than addressing it.
Global warming, if not reversed, will consume our national resources and threaten the well-being of future generations, and volatile energy prices and more extreme weather will devastate our economy.
The urgency of this issue demands a president and a Congress willing to make climate challenge a centerpiece not only of their energy policy but also of their economic program, to produce broad-based growth and sustain American economic leadership in the 21st century.
Society faces mounting physical risks, and businesses face grave financial risks if they fail to adapt to a changing policy climate because of the rapidly changing physical climate.
The challenge we face is nothing short of transforming our economy from a high-carbon model–which is putting both our economy and planet at risk–to a low-carbon model that can create new markets and a healthier environment.
He has an important point to make on the politics:
Now, let me emphasize that global warming is emphatically not a partisan issue, and we must never let it become one. It is instead engaging people across the political spectrum, Republicans and Democrats, religious and secular, young and old–perhaps like no other issue we face today. Global warming cuts across old lines of division, and, if we are smart about it, can get us focused on investing in solutions….
The good news is that while the federal government has been dawdling, states have been busy:
States have also been on the front lines on this issue–recognizing the enormous potential of investing in clean energy; with even fossil fuel producing states such as Texas, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania investing in renewable energy.
- 29 states have completed comprehensive Climate Action Plans,
- Half of all states and the District of Columbia require that electric utilities generate specified amounts of electricity from renewable energy sources,
- And 17 states have greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets.
Next month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will likely sue the Environmental Protection Agency for moving too slowly on a request to allow California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. Already fourteen states have lined up to adopt this standard once the EPA grants its federal preemption waiver request. And just last Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that the state of Vermont can require a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles–dealing a huge blow to car manufacturers.
When it comes to action on climate and clean energy, state leaders from both parties are already setting the national agenda.
It is time for our national leaders to stop being followers and start being leaders.