Today, it’s a good bet that if you consider yourself an environmentalist, you lean left politically. That’s especially true here in D.C. But it wasn’t always. Once leaders in both parties fell all over each other competing to be known as champions of the environment.

Recently I had a chance to speak with the former chiefs of staff for both Democrat Ed Muskie and Republican Howard Baker — the dynamic duo whose early-1970s Senate subcommittee produced the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, among other landmark environmental laws.

My basic question: How’d ya do it?

Leon Billings, Muskie’s staff director, said one thing that didn’t grind meaningful action to a halt was waiting indefinitely for more data to roll in: “We know so much more about the science of global warming now than we knew about the science of leaded gasoline and auto emissions in 1970 when we wrote Clean Air Act,” he said.

His counterpart, Republican Jim Range, says: “Once we had identified the problem, there was a commitment on both sides of the aisle not to agree on everything, but to agree that you would work together until you had addressed the problem.”

In other words, just sitting on your hands wasn’t an option.

Let’s hope we’re fast approaching the day when Washington takes the same approach toward global warming. We can’t afford to wait much longer.