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Forecast for climate change bill: cloudy

A buffeted measure passed a House committee last week, but faces more headwinds.

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A climate change bill that escaped from a House committee last Thursday – and which Congress will confront again next month – has already seen some mighty wriggling from lawmakers forced to take a stand. Yet most realize that capping greenhouse-gas emissions is a subject they can no longer tiptoe around.

Without "rapid and massive action" from governments, Earth's climate is likely to heat up twice as much by 2100 as thought just six years ago, says a new MIT study – about 9 degrees F. instead of 4.3, a rise with potentially severe consequences. "The least-cost option to lower the risk is to start now and steadily transform the global energy system over the coming decades to low or zero greenhouse gas-emitting technologies," says the study's co-author, Ronald Prinn, director of MIT's Center for Global Change Science.

Whether the bill passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee qualifies as "rapid and massive" action remains to be seen. The draft bill's initial goal of a 20 percent cut in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by the year 2020 was weakened to 17 percent. It would, however, keep the long-range goal of an 80 percent reduction by 2050 that is widely thought to be necessary.

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