Dems, McCain Jockey on Environment
By Juliet Eilperin
NORTH BEND, Wash. -- Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are rejecting Republican rival John McCain's characterization of them as newcomers to the issue of global warming.
McCain (Ariz.) said Tuesday that voters would trust him more than the Democrats on climate change because he has focused on the issue since voters questioned him on it during the 2000 presidential campaign.
"I've been involved in this issue for many, many years," he said. "They have never, to my knowledge, been involved in legislation nor hearings nor engagement on this issue. I have a long history. I've traveled around the world and seen the impacts of climate change."
In fact, Clinton (N.Y.) joined McCain on two of the trips where he witnessed the impact of global warming. She accompanied him to the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic in 2005; the year before the senators journeyed together to the Norwegian island of Svalbard.
Clinton has voted consistently to curb greenhouse gas emissions since winning her Senate seat in 2000. As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, she voted in 2002 for a bill that would have imposed limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants -- the first mandatory carbon cap ever considered by a Senate committee.
"Sen. McCain is welcome to rewrite history if he likes but the reality is that Senator Clinton has been very active on the issue of climate change," wrote Clinton spokesman Phil Singer in an e-mail.
Nor has Obama (Ill.) been a slacker when it comes to climate change. Last year he authored legislation directing the National Science Foundation to establish a climate change education program. He pushed for tightening federal fuel economy standards as part of the transportation bill, passed an amendment providing research money for hybrid and flex-fuel vehicles and sponsored legislation to partially reimburse some U.S. automakers for their retirees' health-care coverage in exchange for requiring them to invest at least 50 percent of their costs savings in technology to reduce gas consumption.
And although McCain emerged as the Senate GOP's most vocal climate change advocate several years ago by authoring legislation on the topic with Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), both Obama and Clinton have endorsed legislation that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions more dramatically than McCain's current plan.
McCain supports cutting U.S. emissions 60 percent compared with 1990 levels by 2050. Both Obama and Clinton back an 80 percent reduction by mid-century -- more in line with the targets outlined by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That panel has cautioned that in order to avoid dangerous climate change, worldwide greenhouse gas emissions must drop in half by 2050, requiring at least an 80 percent decline among industrialized countries because developing countries' emissions are expected to increase for at least another dozen years.
Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan was quick to criticize the presumptive GOP nominee's remarks on Tuesday.
"While Barack Obama has brought Republicans and Democrats together around plans to raise our fuel standards and invest in renewable energy, John McCain's 'long history' involves opposing countless measures to invest in renewable fuels and alternative energy technology," Sevugan said.
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said the Democrats were splitting hairs over the senator's remarks.
"Of the candidates who are running for president, there is no one who has demonstrated more leadership on the issue of global climate change than John McCain," Bounds said. "I believe he was making that point."
From the perspective of many foreign leaders, all three candidates mark a significant departure from President Bush and his current climate policy. "Looking at what the presidential candidates are saying, it's clear that they are going to be different," said British Environment Minister Hilary Benn, who is in the United States for meetings this week.
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