Today, hundreds of citizens are on the forefront of the climate movement; 20 years ago, in the summer of 1989, the fight against global warming had only two well-known spokespeople: Senator Al Gore and NASA Scientist Jim Hansen. (Bill McKibben, now at the helm of the indispensable 350.org, joined this august roster with the publication of The End of Nature). Recently, I was lucky enough to hear each of them share their strong opinions about American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), the House’s energy and climate bill that just passed in a 219-212 squeaker. Their opinions diverge, but together Gore and Hansen map out the movement’s next critical steps. At a mid-May gathering in Nashville, Gore fired up hundreds of climate troops on behalf of ACES. The bill is many ways a dream come true for Gore and others who have been in this fight almost from the get-go:
- It sets the aggressive target of 83% emissions reductions (compared to 2005) by 2050, and a modest but acceptable target of 17% by 2020
- With a permit system, it places an economy-wide cap on emissions; to minimize costs, it gives polluters the right to trade these permits.
- It sets a federal renewable electricity and efficiency standard and prioritizes investments in a smart grid and other necessary technologies.