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Originally published April 3, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 3, 2007 at 2:00 AM

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Guest columnists

Too much hot air on global warming

We have spent the past decade debating a scientific consensus on global warming instead of taking action to fix it. The time is...

Special to The Times

We have spent the past decade debating a scientific consensus on global warming instead of taking action to fix it. The time is now to move from talk to action.

For too long, we have allowed our national dialogue on this looming crisis to be distorted by a small group of industry-funded naysayers. They have stalled as evidence mounted along with worldwide temperatures — which are up 1.4 degrees in this new millennium alone.

They have deployed an unending cascade of hollow arguments and manipulations — often with the support and sympathy of the current administration.

It was 1987 when we first started talking about climate change, but Washington turned its back on hard realities and great possibilities — on renewables, efficiency breakthroughs and clean technologies. We could have created millions of new jobs and vast new markets, slowed global warming, saved taxpayers money, earned the world's respect, and significantly strengthened our long-term outlook. Instead, the effort in Washington — both Democrat and Republican — too often has been rhetorical, not real.

Americans have had enough. People across this country are grasping the scientific reality that we are in the middle of a crisis. The Earth's poles and virtually all points in between are heating up at a frightening and potentially catastrophic pace. Recently, the most comprehensive study to date confirmed that manmade global warming is real — and underscored the danger we all face from it.

Even among Republicans, the reign of "hear no science, see no science, speak no science" politicians is eroding. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger capped California's carbon emissions, and moderate Republicans like Olympia Snowe are working across the aisle in the Senate.

We cannot change Washington's past failures, but it's not too late to tackle the problems of the future head-on. It's not too late to cap carbon emissions and begin lowering the pollution that causes global warming. Scientists tell us we have 10 years to reverse emissions levels before they reach unsafe levels.

The good news is that America has overcome such challenges in the past and can surely do so again. Simply put, we have no choice.

It is time to do away once and for all with the myth that fixing the environment is bad for business. In the long run, the opposite is true. General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz recently told Business Week, "Being known as the technology laggard is not conducive to selling automobiles."

Government needs to help America's automakers create cars with higher gas mileage — and to help America maintain its edge in dozens of new "green" markets that will inevitably spring up to meet this challenge. Why shouldn't these new businesses be American businesses?

Each of us can do something, and we need to insist on leaders who will. We wouldn't elect someone who said terrorism wasn't a threat, but for too long we've tolerated those who treat the threat of energy insecurity and the truth of global climate change as inconvenient myths. Well, from now on, every American who walks into a polling place can and should vote to kick out anyone standing in the way of energy independence.

We've decided to speak out about global warming every chance we get. We have written a book about the changing face of environmentalism called "This Moment on Earth" — the book explores what's at stake and explains what people are doing about it.

In the Senate, a Kerry-Snowe-sponsored measure is the most aggressive bipartisan anti-global-warming legislation to date. Our bill freezes emissions by 2010 and then calls for a gradual reduction each year until we hit 65 percent below 2000 emissions levels by 2050. We've also proposed a flexible, economywide cap-and-trade program for greenhouse-gas emissions.

While it's not easy for Red Sox fans to quote legendary Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, he was right when he warned that "it gets late early out there."

The truth is, it's late already. But it's not too late if we get serious about tackling global climate change. No more cheap talk. No more dodging the issue.

The time has come for America to show its mettle and face down the greatest challenge this planet faces in the 21st century.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, will be signing their book, "This Moment on Earth," at 7:30 p.m. today at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle.

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