(CNSNews.com) - A panel discussion on global climate change Tuesday found Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) staff agreeing with representatives for the leading Democratic presidential contenders. A cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, they agreed, is the most promising solution to "global warming."
A cap and trade system would involve limits or caps (lower than current levels) on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced by polluters like power plants. But companies able to cut their CO2 output at a low cost would be able to sell their left-over pollution permits to companies facing higher costs.
John Raidt, a policy advisor to McCain, said during a discussion at the left-leaning Brookings Institution that the Arizona Republican is a "foremost proponent of carbon cap-and-trade."
Raidt said McCain supports a cap-and-trade system above taxes on carbon emissions because "cap-and-trade is a market-driven, proven way."
The position put McCain in league with leading Democratic contenders - Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina - whose policy advisors also participated in the discussion.
Representatives for the three Democrats said they all support a carbon cap-and-trade system.
Discussion moderator Rick Klein, a reporter for ABC News, said the Brookings Institution invited former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but representatives declined to attend.
Romney has previously expressed skepticism about global warming "alarmism" - the dramatic predictions for catastrophe if humans continue releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
As governor of Massachusetts in 2006, Romney pulled out of an agreement with northeastern states that would have committed the states to reducing their carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade system. The retreat has sparked charges of "flip-flopping" against Romney, who had spent years supporting the agreement.
In April, the Carbon Coalition, an environmentalist coalition, quoted Romney as saying, "If there is a carbon cap, I'll make sure it's global and not just domestic." A spokesman for the campaign did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Giuliani's campaign website does not mention global warming or the candidate's energy policy, and a spokesman did not return calls requesting comment Tuesday.
The representatives for Clinton, Obama and Edwards said their candidates agree that cap-and-trade efforts are preferable to a carbon tax. The advisors to Clinton and Obama said nuclear power "should be on the table" as an alternative to fossil fuel-based energy, although they expressed concerns over reactor safety and nuclear waste management.
Edwards "does not think we should be building more nuclear power plants until we resolve the waste question," his advisor James Kvaal said, adding that nuclear power is "never going to be a large part of our solution."
Questioned about the agreement between McCain and the Democratic contenders, Raidt said the candidates agree on the broad approach, but will likely spar over specifics of any plan to address the problem.
"When we get into the details of exactly what's required ... I expect there will be fights," he said, adding that there will be "plenty of time for dissent, healthy dissent."
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