Bill wording sparks debate over global warming

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(Host) Lawmakers working on a bill to reduce greenhouse gas pollution have been debating whether humans are to blame for global warming.

As VPR’s John Dillon reports, the discussion turned on a single word.

(Dillon) The House Natural Resources and Energy Committee was rushing to pass a bill that would expand energy conservation programs.

The version passed by the Senate cites the “growing certainty” that climate change is caused in significant part by human activity.

That phrase bothered Bennington Republican Joseph Krawzcyk.

(Krawcyk) “By whose authority are the words in line seven, “growing certainty?” . I’m not convinced of it.”

(Dillon) Krawzcyk and other Republicans got the word changed to growing “concern” about climate change.

That change didn’t sit well with James Moore, an energy specialist with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. He said that an international panel of scientists recently issued a consensus report saying that there’s unequivocal evidence that humans contribute to global warming.

(Moore) “The bill should reflect what the scientific community has said with a huge degree of certainty, and that is human behavior is behind the dramatic increase in global warming that we’ve seen. And that it’s up to us to do something about it if we’re going to stop that from happening and stop the worst consequences associated with it.”

(Dillon) The Legislature started the session with a three-week crash course on climate change. But Krawzcyk says there wasn’t much attention given to arguments that the planet is getting warmer as part of natural climate cycle.

(Krawczyk) “I do read. I do go on the Internet. I do watch television. I see the controversy going on nationwide here and worldwide here so I don’t want to pass legislation that says with absolute certainty the human race and everything here is causing global warming and pollution. I want more evidence I want counterbalanced testimony so I can make a decision. I haven’t had it up to this point yet.”

(Dillon) East Montpelier Democrat Tony Klein is also a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He says global warming skeptics had plenty of time before now to bring in their own experts to challenge the science.

(Klein) “I believe it. I think the majority of the House and Senate believe. I know that the majority of Vermonters believe it and to say that’s it without certainty in this bill makes to me, makes me think that here I am in 2007 and I’m debating whether the world is flat or round.”

(Dillon) Governor Jim Douglas said he believes that climate change is occurring, although he says he’s not sure how much is caused by humans. But he says it’s imperative that Vermonters reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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