IT is notorious that elected legislators in most countries like nothing better than an opportunity to take part in a study that involves travel to some far distant place with an attractive climate and a plentiful supply of golf courses. Such opportunities are part of the “gravy train” which runs on a predictable timetable in most democracies. Alaska has its attractions but it would not be the destination of choice for most MPs in Britain or members of Congress in the United States. However, the recent trip there by two leading Senators showed that the State should be visited more frequently by Washington's legislators.
The two were Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain, both mooted, as it happens, as presidential candidates for their respective parties in 2008. The purpose of their visit was to enable them to see for themselves the damage that global warmng is causing in distant regions of Alaska which are being irrevocably changed, probably for the first time in centuries. As it happens Mrs Clinton and Mr McCain are already persuaded of the necessity of urgent and meaningful action on global warming but, to judge from the comments they made on their return, their commitment for action has been strengthened and given a greater sense of urgency. One thing that they could usefully do would be persuade the Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe to take a short break in Alaska; he has publicly described global warming as a “hoax”, a view that might be dismissed as just eccentric were the Senator not chaiman of the Senate Environment Committee. The Gleneagles G8 summit last month failed utterly on global warming despite President Bush's reluctant admission that it might have something to do with human activity. The US is the biggest contributor to global warming and in the end it will have to make the biggest effort to control it.


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