The editors of the New York Times, writing about global warming this weekend under the headline, "Listen to the States:"
For years, most of the important initiatives to deal with global warming have been undertaken at the state and local level, while Washington has largely dithered. This is still true. The hope, as always, is that pressure from below will jolt Washington from its slumber.
Last week, Gov. Eliot Spitzer issued strong regulations aimed at cutting emissions of carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas, from New York power plants. Next week Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California will file a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for holding up efforts by his state and others to restrict carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks.
The automobile industry does not want California to get that authority, and Mr. Bush’s E.P.A. has been in no hurry to grant it. But one by one, the federal courts have been demolishing the agency’s excuses for not acting. In April, the Supreme Court ruled that the agency had clear authority to regulate automobile emissions of carbon dioxide. And last month, a federal court in Vermont ruled that automakers were fully capable of meeting the California standards.
The states can take some satisfaction from the fact that Mr. Bush now concedes, at least rhetorically, that global warming is a problem and that he cares about it. One practical way for him to show his concern would be to grant California its waiver and to get behind efforts in Congress to control emissions.
Words are nice, but actions obviously count much more. Spitzer and Schwarzenegger get that, and so, to some extent, do congressional leaders. After all, the bipartisan Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill the editors praise, whatever its other flaws, actively encourages bolder state plans such as Spitzer's.
And should the administration fail to follow suit, Congress would do well to consider actively working to change things. A broader federal framework is necessary and should be acted upon as soon as possible, but at the very least, states' ability and active desire to innovate should be a point of consensus rather than a source of contention and litigation.