With the Democratic primary still too close to call, Sen. John McCain is delivering his acceptance speech in New Hampshire, after winning the Republican primary handily.
The win is huge for climate policy in the United States, as McCain is the only Republican to make global warming a central part of his campaign. He's the only one to lay out a specific policy for tackling it, with a cap-and-trade system for regulating carbon dioxide emissions.
(Gov. Mike Huckabee has said he supports a cap-and-trade system, but lacks the bona fides of McCain on the issue. Mitt Romney rejected global warming action as governor of Massachusetts and has spoken only in generalities about it on the campaign trail. Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Fred Thompson have focused on oil independence, and Thompson has avoided discussing whether or not he believes global warming is a reality that needs to be reckoned with. Ron Paul doesn't believe in any role for the federal government that isn't explicitly outlined in the Constitution, and that includes federal environmental policy.)
A McCain win would mean, whichever Democrat emerges victorious, that the argument about global warming in the general election would not be about whether or what to do about global warming, but how far to go. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have outlined even more aggressive energy plans that they say would reduce emissions by 80% from 1990 levels, and invest heavily in new, renewable and alternative energy sources. McCain has not set a specific goal, but in Senate legislation he championed, he called for a 30% reduction from 2004 levels.
McCain has used his position in the Senate as a bully pulpit for tough talk about global warming, and you can safely bet he'd use the much larger stage of the White House to do the same.
Voters would still face a distinct choice between Republican and Democratic style solutions, but they would know that either general election candidate believes global warming is a priority.
Of course, the race has a long way (or at least the few weeks til Tsunami Tuesday) to go before the parties each settle on a candidate. And global warming, energy policy and the environment have not been much more than blips on the agenda of any of the major candidates, the news media or the opinion poles that gauge the most important issues on the minds of voters. That won't prevent the next president from the responsibility to act on global warming once they step into the White House.
One can hope it was one of the issues on the minds of New Hampshire voters who sent McCain to victory Tuesday. Whether or not it was, the vote gives the sleeper issue momentum.
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