Scientists’ ‘Open Letter’ to Obama, Congress: Waxman-Markey ‘Powerful Advance … Must be Enacted’

The endorsement by 20 prominent climate scientists and scholars of legislation scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives was nuanced, full of the hesitancy that even many of the bill’s strongest supporters have been expressing privately.

Better to do something now and keep working on improving it while getting on with countless other efforts to manage climate change risks. That about sums up the sentiments in the letter headed-up by the Woods Hole Research Center. “But at its best it will be only a first step in the direction that scientists now recognize as necessary to protect local and regional climates,” they wrote in the June 22 communiqué.

Their letter to President Obama and Capitol Hill legislators cited “the large difference between what U.S. politics now seems capable of enacting and what scientists understand is necessary to prevent climatic disruption and protect the human future.” Pointing to President Obama’s highly visible role on health reform legislation, they urged him to “exercise maximum personal leadership beginning now to ensure the strongest possible legislation.”

Saying nations worldwide “have not been true to our word,” the 20 signatory scientists labeled as “inadequate” the goal of limiting carbon dioxide to 450 parts per million and limiting global temperature increases to less than 2 degrees Celsius. They said such increases might not “hold the risk of ruinous climatic change to an acceptably low level.”

Needed: An Obama Role as in Health Care Reform

They pointed to what they see as the need for “an urgent effort on the part of the President to lead the American public” to better understand the risks and to support stronger policies. Singling out Obama’s high-profile recent role on health care reform, they urged an effort “at least comparable” on climate change. Their point here echoes concerns expressed by some others that the President so far appears to have deferred largely to Democratic legislative leaders to shape the legislation rather than putting his own stamp on it.

The letter was posted online on June 22, four days before the full House of Representatives was scheduled to consider the legislation on the floor, where a partisan and largely party-line vote was expected.

The letter was signed by 20 prominent climate scientists and scholars generally widely recognized as being among the leaders on climate change science and on the need for an effective policy response.

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