Brazil got the Olympics. Will they best us in the global warming fight too?

As U.S. legislators debate reform to save money on health care, Brazil has bigger things in mind. Namely, saving the planet. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wants to propose reducing the deforestation rate in Brazil's Amazon rain forests by 80 percent by 2020, he told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday. Lula plans to unveil a more complete package in December at the global climate talks in Copenhagen. On the same day, Brazil's environment minister told Reuters the fast-growing country is considering capping its carbon emissions at 2005 levels.

If the carbon cap were to take effect, it would be an incredibly bold move. In the U.S., it would also be impossible. Special interest groups aligned with coal and steel state congressmen would shoot it down in a heartbeat. Even under a president who has stated that the environment and global warming are huge priorities for the most powerful country on Earth, the U.S. is looking more and more like an environmental laggard that can't make progress on what could well be the pivotal issue of the next 50 years.