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McCain, Obama, and Hot Air

WASHINGTON, DC – Whatever the outcome of the United States’ presidential election, climate change policy will be transformed. Both candidates have placed great importance on global warming. Republican John McCain believes that it presents “a test of foresight, of political courage, and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next,” while Democrat Barack Obama calls it “one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation.”

It remains far from clear, however, whether the shift in rhetoric and policy will move the planet any closer to embracing the best response. Both McCain and Obama could leave future generations lumbered with the costs of major cuts in carbon emissions – without major cuts in temperatures.

Both politicians are keen to tap into voters’ concerns about global warming. McCain launched a television commercial declaring that he had “stood up to President George Bush” on global warming. If elected, Obama plans to count on former vice president and passionate campaigner Al Gore to help “lead the fight” against warming.

Each would introduce aggressive targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Obama’s plan would reduce emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, while McCain aims to ensure that emissions are 60% lower by then. Both would achieve these ambitious cuts by the same method: a cap-and-trade system that imposes limits on industry emissions and forces businesses to buy rights to any additional emissions.