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Climate change draws senators north to Alaska
Anchorage Daily News


August 03, 2005

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Two senators with presidential ambitions are planning a trip to Alaska in two weeks to see the consequences of global climate change in the high latitudes, Alaska's two senators told reporters Monday.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the co-author of a bill to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., are expected to tour Alaska and northwestern Canada, where permafrost is melting, glaciers are in rapid retreat and coastal villages are threatened with increasing erosion. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are also slated to make the trip, tentatively scheduled for Aug. 16 to 19.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens, meeting with reporters in Anchorage at the start of Congress' August recess, will not be joining the tour, they said. Both Alaska senators oppose the bipartisan Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act, authored by McCain and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., for its mandatory emission reductions.

Stevens pointedly told reporters Monday than any legislation on climate change must go through him as chairman of the Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee. He said he continues to be skeptical that human activity is responsible for the climate changes being observed around the globe, pointing instead to cyclical geophysical forces over which Congress has no power.

Murkowski has said that she doesn't believe scientists have conclusively demonstrated that human activity is the main cause for global warming, and without that proof, mandatory emission standards could unnecessarily harm some segments of the economy. But she told reporters Monday that she wasn't sitting still, and pointed to her support of a provision in the recently passed energy bill that provided incentives to develop technologies to reduce greenhouse gas production.

McCain and Lieberman argue that incentives aren't nearly enough. Their legislation would require a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions to 2000 levels by the year 2010 by capping the overall greenhouse gas emissions from power generation, transportation, industry and commercial sources, and creating a market for companies to trade pollution credits. Their measure is milder yet than the Kyoto Accords, which were rejected by the Bush administration.

Carbon dioxide and other gases reduce the Earth's ability to reflect solar heat back into space, much like the glass of a greenhouse. The growing number of scientists who support the global warming theory say that more than a century of heavy industrial activity, culminating in the global petroleum economy, has tipped the balance to where climate change is inevitable, though they say the degree can still be altered with strict controls.

When McCain and Lieberman announced their bill at a Washington press conference in February, they laid plans for a nationwide "listening tour" to allow Americans to report their concerns and observations about global warming. Lieberman said he hoped citizen pressure would force "the politics to catch up with the science."

The Alaska-Canada trip is being coordinated by McCain's office, which couldn't be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Collins said the trip was still too early in the planning process to comment on.


Distributed by Scripps-McClatchy Western Service,

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