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Report finds 'pressing need' for climate action

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There is a "pressing need for substantial action" by the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid serious environmental, economic and humanitarian risks, a National Academy of Science report issued Thursday concludes.

Risks from dangerous climate change impacts are "growing with every ton of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere," said the report, prepared by a team of scientists, policy experts, environmental advocates and business leaders.

The report contradicts the efforts of most West Virginia political leaders, who want delays in any national action to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has pushed for a two-year delay in any U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program to cap greenhouse gas emissions. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has backed a more drastic bill to permanently block any EPA action.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted against a climate change bill that passed the House in 2009. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., opposes any limits on greenhouse emissions.

On the state level, Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, acting as governor, has vowed to continue to fight any federal rules or legislation to deal with global warming.

The new national academy report said that, while there is "some uncertainty" about future risks, changes in climate have already been observed in various parts of the United States. Impacts can be expected to intensify as emissions continue to rise, the report said.

"Responding to these risks is a crucial challenge facing the United States and the world today and for many decades to come," the report said.

But, the report also cautioned that efforts to reduce emissions could produce "winners and losers" that government and society would have to address.

"Increasing the price of carbon-intensive energy, for instance, will have a disproportionate impact on those who need to drive long distances to work and residents of some coal-mining communities," the report said. "Basic notions of fairness require that adverse energy price impacts on those least able to bear them be identified and addressed."

The report said "carbon-related revenues," obtained from emissions taxes or auctioning of emissions permits in a cap-and-trade system, would provide resources that could be used for this purpose.

"Directly engaging economically disadvantaged and other vulnerable communities in the policy planning process helps allow the legitimate interests of those communities to be addressed, while nonetheless allowing broadly desirable investments to be made."

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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