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Jennifer L. Morgan

Jennifer L. Morgan

Jennifer L. Morgan is the director of the Climate and Energy Program at the World Resources Institute.

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Stop stalling on climate change

Why, after a deadly explosion at a West Virginia coal mine and a massive oil spill in the Gulf, does climate legislation appear to have so little momentum in the Senate? Why haven't these signals of the downsides of fossil fuels created more political support for the cause of fighting climate change?

Twenty-two years ago, James Hansen testified to the U.S. Senate about the growing threat of climate change. Seven years ago, Senators McCain and Lieberman brought the first climate bill to the floor, the Climate Stewardship Act. Yet today, the Senate is still stalling on the issue.

While the American people and green groups are beyond frustrated that they haven't acted, Senators could always argue the time wasn't quite right. But today is different, and I think Senators will rise to the occasion. Why?

Our energy system is dangerous. The past month's tragedies starkly show that our reliance on fossil fuels for energy is not just outdated, it's unsafe to humans and the environment. We need to begin moving off these sources and onto clean, safe energy.

Public support for climate and energy legislation is strong. A poll released last Friday showed that 61 percent of 2010 voters support a bill "will limit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy" and that 39 percent are more likely to support such a bill after the oil spill. Not only that, politicians' concern that climate legislation may hurt their reelection prospects is unfounded -- 54 percent would be more likely to re-elect their Senator if he or she voted for the bill.

Enacting legislation now will stimulate the economy. Climate and energy legislation will spur innovation and job creation in a down economy. Studies have shown (and other countries like China and Germany are quickly learning) that clean energy generation creates more jobs than fossil fuel generation. It's time for the U.S. to lead in this area.

The bill that Kerry and Lieberman introduce this week may be our best chance yet to fix this broken system, and I hope the Senate will deliver.

By Jennifer L. Morgan  |  May 12, 2010; 12:54 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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