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Climate Change Issue Takes Center Stage

Political and business leaders from the Northwest to Washington, D.C. stepped into the spotlight Thursday on the issue of climate change. Rob Manning reports.

Within hours of each other Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency rolled out new greenhouse gas rules, leading Democrats in D.C. announced a Senate bill to deal with climate change – and Nike officials announced a high-profile break with a national business group over global warming.

Nike is vacating its position on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors. Nike supports stronger regulation of carbon dioxide. The Chamber doesn’t.

Later Wednesday, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said her agency will regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

Lisa Jackson: “Under this new rule, large facilities would be required to adopt the best and most efficient technologies available, when they’re constructed, or when they’re upgraded, helping us significantly reduce greenhouse gases from sectors that account for 70 percent of non-vehicle emissions from U.S. sources.”

Jackson didn’t know what the rule would cost business, or how much carbon it would cut. But she said repeatedly that the EPA isn’t the best place to craft climate change policy.

Oregon senator Jeff Merkley said the same thing yesterday, as he backed a new climate change bill, in the Senate.

Jeff Merkley: “Under the mechanisms under this bill we can far better reduce the overall level of pollution through the trading of allocations, than we can by simply putting a rule on every single smokestack.”

The broader concern coming from some business groups, though, is that putting a price on carbon – as the leading bills in Congress would do – will hurt the economy.

Andy Roth with the conservative Club for Growth tried to put a price tag on the new senate bill for Fox News.

Andy Roth: “Well, it’s tough to say, all we know is that it’s going to be in the ‘t’ for trillions because all of these companies that do emit carbon are now going to be forced to clamp down and that’s going to cost money. And the companies are just going to transfer that cost to families and taxpayers.”

One new study due out next week, estimates a lower figure – in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

The Portland-based project, Economics for Equity and the Environment, says aligning greenhouse gas reductions with what scientists are asking for – which goes well beyond the senate bill – would cost between one and three percent of gross domestic product.

Frank Ackerman is an economist at Tufts University who helped crunch the study’s economic models.

Frank Ackerman: “They’re not saying zero, but they’re also not saying ‘it’s going to bankrupt us.’ They’re not saying in fact that it’s a qualitative change in our quality of life. They’re saying it’s a noticeable expenditure.” 

Ackerman argues the cost is much cheaper than the potential damage to the economy from global warming.

What’s pushing all this is a global climate summit coming in Copenhagen, this December.

Chris Gregoire: “The problem we have is a lot of talk and no action and it’s time for action.”

That’s Washington governor Chris Gregoire. She, Governor Kulongoski and dozens of U.S. and foreign leaders have been meeting in Los Angeles this week looking for action on climate change – and the green jobs they hope will result.