One of the requisites for being a government representative is the ability to assess an issue and wisely, and sometimes quickly, decide where to stand on it. There must be times when members of Congress, who have to confront such a broad array of issues, have a difficult time sensing what their positions should be. They never know when they will be called upon to explain their vote. It could take years, but an imprudent vote could very easily come back to haunt them.

Take the war in Iraq, for instance. When President Bush decided to invade, he ran into little opposition from a Congress caught up in the post-Sept. 11 patriotic fervor. Much later, many of those members who supported the war, no matter how grudgingly, were trapped by that sentiment.

Another issue that is bound to pose political problems for members of Congress is whether the climate is being harmed by our habits regarding energy and other factors and whether we ought to take action now to head off catastrophe later.

The debate on whether we are soon to be hoist with our own petard in terms of climate seems to be abating, as more and more scientific evidence points to warming of the Earth at the hands of humankind. The voice of dissent on that point seems far less shrill than it used to be, the chorus thinning discernibly.

Reps. John McHugh of Pierrepont Manor and Kirsten Gillibrand of Clifton Park would be wise on this issue to take note of almost a dozen events that were scheduled for this past weekend in the region as part of a nationwide campaign to urge Congress to begin seriously reducing carbon-dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

The much ballyhooed campaign was called Step It Up! The idea was to persuade Congress to pass legislation requiring an 80-percent reduction in carbon dioxide by 2050. The targets of the effort are, among others, the energy and automotive industries.

Events last weekend spanned the entire region, including Keene, Port Henry, Plattsburgh and Lake Placid. Many were the work of well-known environmental groups in the Adirondacks, but the movement now transcends traditional environmental activism.

Global warming has been a political issue, with traditional Democrats embracing it as an issue and President Bush and other Republicans being dismissive. But the tide of public opinion seems to be moving relentlessly toward acceptance of warming as a dangerous phenomenon that must be lassoed before it surges out of control.

McHugh and Gillibrand, a Republican and Democrat, respectively, should hear the din from this environmentally conscientious region and treat the issue as seriously as they must another popular target in this nature-sensitive region, acid rain.

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