Monday, August 14, 2006

Warming to the Issue

The announcement this past week that British Prime Tony Blair and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have agreed to work together to explore ways of fighting global warming is either:
(A) A bold step in combating global warming:
(B) A slap in the face of the White House;
(C) A symbolic gesture;
(D) A cheap political stunt:
(E) All of the above.
The two agreed to collaborate on research into cleaner-burning fuels and technologies, and look into the possibility of setting up a system whereby polluters in California and Britain could buy and sell the right to emit greenhouse gases.
While "bold" may be too strong a word to attach to this non-binding agreement, it most certainly shows that Schwarzenegger is taking an active role in combating what is increasingly perceived as an issue that could soon reach a crisis stage.
To be truthful, the prime minister and the governor aren't breaking much new ground here. Former President Clinton and big-city mayors from around the globe, including Los Angeles, have joined in an initiative to combat climate change and increase energy efficiency in everything from street lights to building materials.
But the idea of using market forces and market incentives to curb pollution is a step worth taking.
The White House was conspicuous by its absence when the announcement was made and many saw the agreement as a rebuff to President Bush who in the past has dismissed Blair's calls to focus on global warming as a critical international environmental issue.
The governor didn't mince words. ``The message is that we do not wait for the federal government to act. ... We see there is not great leadership by the federal government when it comes to protecting the environment,'' Schwarzenegger said. ``So that is why as a state, we will move forward because we know it is the right thing to do.
Is this a mere symbolic gesture? It could be if California, the 12th-largest source of greenhouse gases in the world last year, doesn't do something to cap greenhouse emissions in the state.
The group Environment California, which said that unless a mandatory and enforceable cap is established, ``promises to do something about global warming are nothing more than a lot of hot air.''
Business leaders don't want strict limits on emissions. The governor has called on California to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2010.
Stay tuned.
And lastly, was this a mere political dog-and-pony show? Schwarzennger's Democratic opponent, State Treasuere Phil Angelides, certainly thought so.
The event was ``classic Arnold Schwarzenegger: a promise to talk about, and perhaps someday do something, on an issue,'' Angelides said. ``The governor's always a showman ... never getting things done.''
Perhaps. It is an election year after all and incumbents have been known to use their offices as a bullypulpit.
But there seems to be genuine momentum behind combating global warming and the Blair/Schwarzenegger agreement hopefully signals a continuing committment to focus on the issue.
So the answer to the quiz?: (E) All of the above.
But no matter how you view it, we can hope that the actions taken this past week will lay the foundation for meaninful action in the near future. And that local government entities and even individuals follow suit and redouble their efforts in helping to avoid what could be a looming environmental disaster.

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