The Politics of Climate Change: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

There’s been a lot of talk about whether federal climate change legislation is dead for this session. Bradford Plummer at the New Republic makes a pretty good case that the legislation is still alive and kicking:

That said, there don’t seem to be any signs that Democrats are planning to relent just yet. A few days ago, Ben Geman of The Hill reported that most of the caucus wants to move on a climate bill, and that includes coal-staters like Arlen Specter. . . .. And the White House insists it won’t stand for “slicing and dicing.” They want the full cap.

Granted, just because Democrats are moving ahead doesn’t mean they have the votes. And if Landrieu and Nelson are opposed, they’ll need some Republican support. But optimists should note that Lindsey Graham is still huddling with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman on a “tripartisan” climate bill. Graham keeps getting abused by the South Carolina GOP, but he’s calling for a “meaningful control” on pollution. Also, Susan Collins is co-sponsoring a cap-and-dividend bill—read about the pros and cons of that approach here. . . . . (And for those who love tea leaves, two more Republicans, Richard Lugar and Lisa Murkowski, were saying positive things about the Copenhagen accord.)

As Plummer points out, an important indicator will be the January 20 vote on a proposal to strip EPA of its power to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.  It’s hard to see why any legislator who is serious about climate change would vote for that proposal.

To paraphrase a well-known saying, the opera isn’t over until the overweight person vocalizes.

Wagner's Valkyrie Brunhilde (From RadioInkTank)

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Reader Comments

7 Replies to “The Politics of Climate Change: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over”

  1. The on-going temperature decline trend was predicted.

    All average global temperatures since 1895 are accurately predicted by a simple model using the first law of thermodynamics and the time-integral (same as ‘running total’ if time steps are equal) of sunspot count. The standard deviation of concurrent measured minus predicted temperatures since 1900 is 0.064 C. There was no need to consider any change to the level of CO2 or any other greenhouse gas. Climate change is natural.

    The model, with an eye-opening graph, is presented in the October 16 pdf at http://climaterealists.com/index.php?tid=145&linkbox=true. (One of the discoveries made during this research was the effective sea surface temperature oscillation. The integral of the PDO Index http://jisao.washington.edu/pdo/PDO.latest indicates a substantial measure of sea surface temperatures, as does ENSO 3.4, but not all so replace all references to PDO with ESST for Effective Sea Surface Temperature).

    This model predicted the ongoing temperature decline trend. None of the 20 or so models that the IPCC uses did.

    Without human-caused global warming there is no human-caused climate change.

  2. Clearly, President Obama’s decision to pursue health care reform has exhausted his political capital, and I consequently disagree with the prioritization of this issue over climate change legislation. I’m similarly skeptical about the bill’s prospects, because I don’t think the public has the wherewithal to stomach any more ideological bickering over yet another divisive issue.

    I am also unsatisfied with current legislative proceedings. Unfortunately, “tripartisanship” will lead to a watered down bill with possible subsidies to dirty energy industries (i.e. Big Coal and Big Oil). This is an almost-certainty. Any major reform bill that passes through the halls of Congress gets incrementally whittled down by requisite negotiations and brokered compromises to secure votes from wavering legislators. This compromise bill that Graham, Lieberman, and Kerry are crafting is surely more palatable to the public than the other co-written by Sen. Barbara Boxer, which was pushed through committee without a single Republican vote. But as the health care clashes in the past several months have demonstrated, attempts at bipartisanship can be futile when the other side is stubbornly opposed to a bill for the sake of obstructing its opponents’ agenda. In this case, Democratic partisanship may be unsavory, but necessary for the implementation of real and meaningful environmental policy reform.

    In any case, I welcome Graham’s and Lieberman’s willingness to collaborate on this bill, albeit with a grain of salt. I accept that concessions must be made to advance the legislation through Congress, though at what cost I’m unsure. A flawed bill that will instigate action is better than no bill at all, right?…Unless the EPA intervenes in the face of legislative failure, at which point its regulatory actions would be far more stringent than any initiated by any bill that manages to force its way onto the President’s desk.

    So in the end, perhaps it is best that the bill fail, so that the EPA can take matters into its own hands. Here’s to hoping the January 20 vote falters.

  3. I disagree that Republican support is necessary. The Senate can, and once did, get things passed less than 60 votes. The 60-vote requirement only arises if someone is willing to delay action by talking until their blue in the face, and perhaps beyond that point. I’m not sure whether Republicans have threatened to do that over the climate bill, but just for once I’d like to see Reid call their bluff and keep a bill on the floor. If the Republicans want to take turns reading the phone book until the session ends, in hopes of stopping legislative progress on environmental protection (or health care reform or financial regulation, all three of which generally poll well), let them do it.

  4. I would love to see Reid force a filibuster. It would be good politics–think how effectively Republicans portrayed the issue that every judge needs an up or down vote. (Now they are blocking all Obama’s nominations.) I’ve heard it said that so many Senators are so old, the couldn’t take a real filibuster. It seems to me they brought cots for Ted Stevens and others at the end of ’08 on some protracted vote.

    I’m with Natalie. EPA regulation–command and control–is the way to go. On that topic, if Murkowski can introduce and amendment to strip EPA of its authority to regulate CO2, why can’t the Democrats introduce an amendment to exempt small stationary sources from regulation. It would strengthen EPA’s ability to regulate emmissions and how could any Republican vote against an amendment that keeps EPA from regulating dry cleaners and doughnut shops?

  5. Sheesh. Make that “passed [with] less than 60 votes,” and “until they’re (or, perhaps, he’s or she’s) blue in the face.”

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Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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