True, America no longer is out to sabotage action to reduce greenhouse gases, as it did during the previous decade. And the U.S. House of Representatives did manage to pass a climate-change bill in June that would set up a "cap and trade" system for bringing down the level of emissions by 17 percent in the next 10 years.
But Republican senators, using a mix of creationism and junk science to deny the fact of our rapidly deteriorating atmosphere, had kept a similar bill bottled up in the Environmental and Public Works Committee. Until last Thursday.
That's when Committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the co-sponsor - with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. - of a far-reaching bill that would reduce heat-trapping gases by 20 percent in 10 years, decided to play hardball.
Last week, faced with an unprecedented Republican boycott of committee meetings, Boxer pushed through a vote on the bill, even though the absence of any Republicans meant that there could be no debate and that dozens of amendments couldn't be considered. Republicans had defended their boycott by saying they wanted more detailed analysis of the bill's effects from the Environmental Protection Agency, a transparent attempt to delay it into oblivion. So Boxer invoked a procedural rule to take a vote on the bill even though no Republicans were at the meeting.
This of course enraged the absent senators, who had gotten used to gumming up the works. But the gutsy move by Boxer let the world know that at least some senators understand the urgency of the situation. By getting the bill out of the deadlock in her committee, Boxer's move also paved the way for other senators to begin work on a compromise bill that, unlike health-care reform, actually could garner bipartisan support, especially if it includes nuclear power subsidies. *