Sunday, June 28, 2009

Climate Change: Unskilled Rolling of the Dice?

Sunday's reporting on Friday's passage of the House climate change bill, at least in the New York Times, seemed a bit odd (check it here). The first paragraph of the article says: "Democrats...were dogged by a critical question: Has the political climate changed since 1993?" That's kind of dumb thing to write.

Regardless, Republicans appear miffed that the bill passed (I assure you there a number of liberal environmentalists who are livid as well) and were in such a tizzy that they harkened back to the BTU tax malaise Bill Clinton struggled with in 1993, which some believe backfired on the Dems, providing conservatives the political fodder they needed to jump start Newt Gingrich's 1994 "Contract with America."

Republicans are said to have chanted, "BTU, BTU, BTU" as the bill passed in Congress on Friday (ironically, I had a dinner conversation that same night about how annoying it is when inept, losing

teams in Little League baseball chant nursery rhyme curses at opposing pitchers and hitters).

For more on this supposed parallel with Clinton in 1993, read (better reference material) Andrew Revkin's "Dot Earth" blog site entry dated Sunday. Revkin points out that in 1993 Clinton was simply looking to come up with revenue for a struggling federal government, whereas, here in the present, the House has proposed their legislation to begin the process of curbing climate change once and for all.

I would add that whatever bill eventually comes out of Congress, policy had better be crafted so as to once and for all shift the nation's energy economy in a direction that reduces our dependence on both foreign oil and the inherently destructive coal industry within our own country. This is no loger a moral issue or a question of values. It is about survival and meaningful economic growth into a long-term future.

President Obama, the NYTimes reported online yesterday, addressed his own concerns about the Republican's odd glee over the seeming parallels between the House climate change bill and President Cinton's energy tax of the last century. Those Republicans "
are 16 years behind the times," he said. Obama also commented on an odd little piece of the bill slipped in at the last moment seeking to control U.S. economic involvement with countries that don't share our minimum standards for greenhouse gas mitigation. The Prez was none too pleased with folks messing around with import-export business policies.

On a side note, the media is a bit confused that global warming came to the fore when last week there was so much emphasis and ink spilled over health care reform. Congress, of course, is running the show right now with respect to climate initiatives, while the White House has been out in front the past few weeks on heathcare.

Whatever the issues this week, the Senate still has to grapple with their own version of climate legislation and this may take months. The gauntlet, though, has been laid down: cap and trade is the policy choice politicians think will work
politically (that's why they call them politicians). They're wrong, of course. A progressive and aggressive tax on fossil fuels that cuts across the industrial, transportation, commercial, and residential energy sectors is the only way we're actually going to solve our end of this problem meaningfully. Now's the time to do it too while energy prices are down.

What matters is not that we try to do something, but that we actually succeed in doing what we've known for years we have to do. If you don't believe me, check out last week's New Yorker piece by Elizabeth Kolbert on James Hansen, the grandfather of global warming. "The Catastrophist." (you will need a subscription to read online, but you can also obviously go buy the magazine at a newstand or bookstore). Hansen continues to say over and over that we have one chance to fix this climate problem and it has to happen within the next 10-15 years. One chance. How much do you bet as a gambler if you know you're only going to get one chance?

1 comment:

Nexus said...

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