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States taking on climate change

Despite controversy over climate change theories, many states are acting to deal with greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study authored by Prof. Barry Rabe of the School of Natural Resources and Environment.
Rabe (Photo courtesy U-M Washington, D.C., office)

At a press conference in Washington recently, Rabe unveiled a study entitled "Greenhouse and Statehouse: The Evolving State Government Role in Climate Change." The study was released by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, which also sponsored the press briefing.

Rabe said states in recent years have recognized they have particular vulnerabilities to climate change. He gave as examples the impact of climate change on maple trees in New Hampshire, sea levels along the New Jersey coastline and adverse weather conditions facing farmers in Nebraska. "Texas generates more greenhouse gases than France," Rabe said.

Bipartisan efforts in many states have led to state legislation and regulation designed to control emissions or create renewable energy, he said.

He cited examples such as Texas, where a wind power initiative signed into law by then-Gov. George W. Bush has led to a dramatic growth in wind-generated electricity. He also pointed to mandatory carbon dioxide testing in Wisconsin and attempts by New Jersey to meet halfway the goals of the Kyoto climate change protocols of the late 1990s.

While some states have begun to address the issue, Rabe said others are lagging. "Twenty-six states had budget cuts last year," he said. "There has also been a lot of turnover of governors and legislators due to term limits. Institutional memory of the problems and the solutions may be lost."

His case studies show that states often can be labs for policy that later can be adopted by the federal government, Rabe said.

While in Washington, Rabe also briefed congressional staff members on the findings of his report. A complete copy of the report can be found at



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