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On Second Thought

The "meager targets" of the House energy bill suggest some hot air on greenhouse gases, as we learned in mischaracterizing the House energy bill of 2009.

In a June 10 story on the government’s latest International Energy Outlook, Miller-McCune mischaracterized the proposed American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 as being “roughly in line with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

As writer Robert Jereski pointed out to us, the House bill falls well short of those targets, which were designed to avoid runaway climate change. In 2007, the panel warned that in order to avoid the worst consequences of global warming, the U.S. and other industrialized countries must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent by 2020, and by 80 to 95 percent by 2050, below 1990 levels. The House bill shifts the baseline and lowers the targets, calling for a 17 percent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and an 83 percent reduction by 2050, below 2005 levels.

NASA’s Jim Hansen, one of the world’s best-known climate scientists and a climate change activist, has called the legislation “less than worthless,” in part because of its “meager targets.” Greenpeace, the international environmental advocacy group, estimates that the bill offers only a 4 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2020.

Recent scientific reports show that climate change is already proceeding at a faster pace than was projected in 2007. Meanwhile, the House bill is stalled in the Senate.