Politics

Climate legislation

This June, the U.S. Senate is slated to vote on a major global warming bill designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The bill relies on a cap and trade system to limit carbon dioxide, and its lead sponsors in the Senate – Independent Joe Lieberman and Republican John Warner – say they're picking up more and more supporters. But the opposition is also growing – even some lawmakers who say they want to see action on climate change don't like this bill. So, as "Living on Earth's" Jeff Young reports, the legislation faces a steep climb up Capitol Hill.

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Virginia's stately Senator John Warner is stepping down after 30 years in office. Before retiring to his prize-winning sunflower garden he has one last item on his to-do list, and it's a doozy: cutting the country's greenhouse gases.

His bill aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from across the economy so that by mid-century the U.S. would put out about 70 percent less CO2 than it did in 1990. Warner's Senate colleagues want to know what that's going to cost.

WARNER: "It's just not the Republicans; all are concerned about what is the impact at the gas pump when you fill up your car. What is the impact in trying to heat your house? Now, you get right down to consumer level and that's big votes."

Warner's bill has a lot of provisions to soften the blow: things like assistance for low-income consumers and home energy efficiency programs. And the bill's cap and trade system would allow companies to buy and sell the rights to emit CO2. That's generally viewed as a market-friendly approach. Warner's partner, Connecticut's Joe Lieberman, says that the trading system will have independent oversight to avoid the mistakes that made Europe's carbon trade open to market manipulation.

The bill faces stiff opposition from the National Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Association, who say the carbon cap will cost too much and kill jobs. Lieberman says economic analysis shows the bill's costs are manageable. And he says Senate support for the bill is getting close to 60 – that's the magic number needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. However, as he left a recent press conference, Lieberman told me that he does not yet have the support of one of his closest climate allies in the Senate – the man he supports for president – John McCain.

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Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth.