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Act now on climate change laws

The Florida Times-Union

April 4, 2008

Act now on climate change laws

By Steve O'Hara

Special to the Times-Union

One of the most important things Gov. Charlie Crist has done in office is put Florida at the forefront of the global warming fight.

His bold call for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 will be a challenge to achieve.

However, it is a goal that all Floridians should embrace, since it will have such positive impacts on the way energy is produced and used.

Important efforts are under way in Congress to frame the national response to this challenge. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and John Warner, R-Va., have introduced America's Climate Security Act of 2008.

This is strong legislation dealing with the root cause of global warming -greenhouse gas emissions - on a scale needed to deal credibly with the issue and put the United States in a leadership role globally.

The bill creates a national cap-and-trade system that penalizes businesses that pump too much greenhouse gas into the air, while rewarding cleaner companies. It sets emissions limits at levels scientists say are necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.

This bill offers the kind of bipartisan leadership this country craves. Republican presidential nominee John McCain supports this legislation, along with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. Now we call on Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., to join the effort and support America's Climate Security Act.

America's Climate Security Act includes provisions to help low-income families by providing assistance for a transition to a clean energy future. A significant amount of revenue generated from the cap-and-trade system will be used for programs such as the Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program.

The bill also provides resources for training workers to enter new, high-wage jobs in the emerging alternative energy field.

As president of the Florida Wildlife Federation and an avid conservationist, I am pleased that the bill provides funding for states and federal agencies to protect America's wildlife and other natural resources from the impacts of climate change that can no longer be avoided.

What affects wildlife ultimately affects people, so the time is now to develop the best strategies to protect the landscapes and habitats they and we depend on.

The prospects for Congress passing legislation to reduce global warming are growing day by day. Florida's congressional delegation needs to act quickly to pass cap-and-trade legislation and deliver it to the president's desk.

The defining issue of the 21st century is whether we will muster the political will to confront global warming.

It is not an issue of left or right, but an issue of right or wrong.

Steve O'Hara of Jacksonville is chairman of the Florida Wildlife Federation.

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