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Updated 12:00 PM June 23, 2005




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  Reframing the Climate Change Debate
U.S. must take 'moon shot' to battle climate change

If the United States is serious about addressing global climate change, one U.S. senator says the issue must be debated on the country's biggest stages.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., tells attendees of the "Reframing the Climate Change Debate" conference that U.S. citizens must work to alter the government's stance on global climate change. (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

"I believe this issue is so major, it must be part of a future presidential campaign," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told a capacity crowd June 2 at Hale Auditorium. "We need a level of leadership similar to efforts of a previous generation that put a man on the moon.

"We need our own moon shot—to develop alternatives to petroleum and to make more efficient use of all forms of energy."

Levin delivered the keynote address for the conference, "Reframing the Climate Change Debate: Jobs, Trade, Security and a Revised Research Agenda," hosted by the Center for Advancing Research and Solutions for Society, and the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Addressing "Federal Action on Climate Change: Issues and Challenges," Levin said, "I believe climate change is occurring; I believe we are causing it; I believe it is a threat to the planet; and I believe it is long past time for action. The risks of inaction far outweigh the costs of action."

Levin said two major policy changes are needed at the federal level to address global climate change: support for a new international agreement on the issue; and a massive federal investment in research and development in commercialization of new technology.

Climate change must be addressed on an international basis, he said. It does not help the environment to bring down greenhouse gas emissions in one country, only to have them pop up in others, he said. It needs to be dealt with globally, not piecemeal.

Significant action by the United States to combat climate change is impossible, he said, unless there is a change of heart by the administration.

"The U.S. has become allergic to binding international treaties," Levin said. "We need to return to the negotiating table and become part of an effective international treaty on climate change that is binding for all countries."

Levin cited resource recovery efforts in his native Michigan, saying more than three dozen landfills produce gas used directly for heating or the production of electricity. He said Ford Motor Co.'s Wayne Assembly Plant is generating 2.4 megawatts of electricity from gas from a nearby landfill.

"It is a win-win situation," he said, and should be encouraged throughout the country. Yet, the EPA estimates there are more than 700,000 landfills across the United States that could install economically viable landfill gas energy recovery systems but have not done so, he added.

Levin said Congress needs a new commitment to develop advanced hybrid-electric and fuel cell vehicles and technologies that use renewable energy sources, and to team with private industry and academia to form an effort that is significantly larger than anything on the drawing board.

"If we are to rise to this challenge, we need to take dramatic action and do so without delay," he said. "The result will be a bright future for our planet and a more secure environment for our children."

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