22 July 2010

The US Punts on Climate Legislation

As has happened in Australia (see former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd dealing with climate legislation in the image above) and is likely to occur in Japan the US Senate has decided to put off consideration of climate legislation:

Senate Democrats pulled the plug on climate legislation Thursday, pushing the issue off into an uncertain future ahead of midterm elections where President Barack Obama’s party is girding for a drubbing.

Rather than a long-awaited measure capping greenhouse gases — or even a more limited bill directed only at electric utilities — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will move forward next week on a bipartisan energy-only bill that responds to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and contains other more popular energy items.

As I argued in March, this was entirely predictable (see also this):
Late last year, the Australian government decided to separate energy policy legislation from the emission trading scheme and secure passage of the former while leaving the latter to a later time. Democrats in the US Congress seem keen to do much the same this year.
Reaction to the Senate's decision has been swift. For instance, Joe Romm, in characteristic fashion, has declared the entire Obama Presidency a failure, in the process perhaps unintentionally proving Clive Crook's "good rule of politics":
[I]f you are going to disappoint the left, make it your enemy. Mr Obama has got the worst of both worlds. He pleads for the left’s patience and understanding, certain to be rebuffed. The centre watches, also feeling betrayed, and waits for November.
Andy Revkin, also expressing severe disappointment in Obama's lack of effort on climate, posits that perhaps only a Republican president can enact meaningful climate policy:
Could it be that the White House has concluded what some political analysts have quietly told me — that only a Republican president could muster the Senate votes to pass a meaningful climate bill? That sounds strange initially but isn’t so strange when you consider the history of major environmental legislation and note that a moderate Republican could bring his or her base and lure many Democrats, while a Democrat is unlikely ever to lure sufficient Republican support to get 60 votes on a climate bill.
With the far left and far right in US politics united in anger at Obama, perhaps we'll see Revkin's hypothesis tested sooner rather than later. The reality is that the next Congress is going to be no more friendly to comprehensive climate legislation that the current Congress, as both chambers are going to see large swings toward the Republican party. This means that the chances for comprehensive climate legislation are probably less in the next Congress.

Perhaps this is why The Hill suggests that there is a "growing consensus among green activists" that a delay in considering climate legislation until fall would be OK. That would mean considering the legislation during the "lame duck" session, after the election but before the seating of newly elected representatives and senators in January. The political right is already gearing up for this possibility. I simply cannot see the President pushing to enact anything controversial during a lame duck session after his party suffers large losses in an election that will serve largely as a referendum on his leadership. Were he to do so, he would pretty much seal his fate as a one-term, failed president. Like Bill Clinton, Obama's opportunity to reverse his political fortunes may depend on being drawn to the center by the more Republican congress that he'll have to work with over the next two years.

The bottom line is that the dominant approach to climate change promoted by those calling for action the loudest has failed -- yet again. Really, how much more evidence is needed to convince those calling for action on climate change that a radically new approach is needed?


  1. Really, how much more evidence is needed to establish that those favoring some sort of action on "climate change" are just liberals with a solution looking for a problem?

  2. Good news.

    The truth is that, despite endless waves of corporate lies, science 'cheating', stich ups and whitewashes, intelligent voters still don't believe a word of it. Individual politicians are voting to save their own skins.

    Goldman Sachs vastly overstimated the leadership potential of their president in this and every other area. There is a limit to what will be swallowed. The health care and finance bills were gifts to Wall Street, this is a scam too far.

    Obama's only hope of survival is the corporate media's new favourite, Sarah Palin. No one else who is capable of conducting a campaign would look worse to the voters. Even if she won, she couldn't get a climate bill through. You can only go so far with totally useless politicians like Bush 43, Palin and Obama.

  3. Be carefull of the "trojan Horse:" When Carol Browning makes an announcement in Rolling Stone that the legisative effort is dead, they have something up their sleaves beside their Arms.

  4. What makes legislation "climate" when it would have no discernible effect on arresting momentum?

  5. Posted this on Joe Romm's blog but it was deleted. Romm is not realy interested in co2 reduction.

    charlesH says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    July 22, 2010 at 6:33 pm
    Joe and readers,

    You can still get meaningful co2 reductions by joining Dr. James Hansen (NASA AGW scientist) in support of an aggressive transition to “green” nuclear (LFTR et al). 10,000 times less toxic waste, cheaper, safer …. You will get strong Republican/skeptic support for this technology.

    http://www.columbia.edu/ ~jeh1/ mailings/ 20081229_Obama_revised.pdf

    http://www.americanscientist.org/ issues/ feature/ 2010/ 4/ liquid-fluoride-thorium-reactors


  6. And China announces today that they will introduce an ETS within 5 years...

  7. David Stern said... 6

    "And China announces today that they will introduce an ETS within 5 years..."

    That's a relief, are they going to cap at 75% of world production or the current 50% of world production?

    'China set to consume 50% of global coal production this year'

  8. -6-David Stern

    Even better/worse:


  9. Is ANYONE naive enough to believe China? Maybe in academia?

  10. jae might enjoy reading this article and telling us how it comports with his opinion.

  11. Perhaps the US needs to adopt the British approach - pass a piece of legislation that is good for PR value with the more strident Greens, but then do little (if anything) to actually meet any of the targets set out in it. Oh, and pass such legislation (the Climate Change Bill) during the first October snow on Parliament since the 1930s.

    Regarding your comment that perhaps only a Republican President could pass a meaningful Climate Change bill, there was an interesting parallel in the UK about a decade ago, where the Labour (by US standards, traditionally hard line Democrats) Government passed legislation regarding student payment of University tuition fees - a policy that if introduced by the Conservatives would have been ridiculed by Labour in opposition as typically uncaring, money-grabbing etc.

    Final point, regarding Churchill's "two nations divided by a common language" - I take it your use of the word 'punts' in the title means to put aside (presumably from your football of punting the ball away to the opposition). In the (UK) English colloquial, a 'punt' is a bet, so your title would actually mean the Government is taking the gamble on supporting and pushing through the legislation...

  12. Well since polls show climate is at the very bottom of everyones priorities, I strongly suspect there will no voter fallout whatsoever from that; not even from the hardliners, who'd never vote Republican anyway.

    Obama is unpopular because he promised change but delivered business as usual - utterly undistinguishable from Bush. To recover he might try to recall these campaign promises and shake off the shackles of crony capitalism.

  13. Roger,
    Your theory is that Congress and the President will be interested in what voters think after the mid-term elections? Why start then? Anyways, whatever they end up passing won't be known at the time of passage (if the rest of this Congress is any guide).

  14. -11-Ian Blanchard

    Re: "two nations divided by a common language"

    Yes, indeed, and I compound the issues by illustrating this post with a picture from Aussie Rules ;-)

  15. It's not even a punt, looks more like a drop kick, and a squibbler at that.

  16. Ian Blanchard

    Howard Dean said Obama's health care bill was written by Wall Street. In fact it was originally a GOP proposal that would have been utterly ridiculed Bush had proposed it. It really goes to show how naive these politicians are, or maybe they aren't. Maybe it's just a Punch and Judy show.

    Obama health insurance requirement taken from GOP

    WASHINGTON – Republicans were for President Barack Obama's requirement that Americans get health insurance before they were against it.

    The obligation in the new health care law is a Republican idea that's been around at least two decades. It was once trumpeted as an alternative to Bill and Hillary Clinton's failed health care overhaul in the 1990s. These days, Republicans call it government overreach.

    Mitt Romney, weighing another run for the GOP presidential nomination, signed such a requirement into law at the state level as Massachusetts governor in 2006. At the time, Romney defended it as "a personal responsibility principle" and Massachusetts' newest GOP senator, Scott Brown, backed it. Romney now says Obama's plan is a federal takeover that bears little resemblance to what he did as governor and should be repealed.

    Republicans say Obama and the Democrats co-opted their original concept, minus a mechanism they proposed for controlling costs. More than a dozen GOP attorneys general are determined to challenge the requirement in federal court as unconstitutional.


  17. If anyone can name a single corporation that is less than deeply enthusiastic about global warming, I might believe it is a left wing policy. Otherwise I will continue to believe that it is a right wing corporate scam perpetrated by a politician who makes Richard Nixon look like a poster boy for Trotsky's perpetual socialist revolution.

  18. Excellent news, I'm delighted to hear it.

    Whenever I hear the meaningless phrase 'climate legislation' I am reminded of the King Canute story.

  19. This reminds me, in a way, of the criminal case proceedings during OJ's trial. With all the evidence painting OJ as an evil murderer, much of the public still saw him as a hero and it only took the smallest of doubts to derail his conviction. The climate science community (I include science writers in this community) too had all the evidence in the world they needed to convince the American court of public opinion that fossil fuel was guilty of crimes against humanity in what should have been a slam dunk case.

    Today the science community is wallowing in anger and externalizing blame for failed policy while forgetting that the Byrd-Hagel bill passed 95-0 in 1997, and ignoring the fact that the science community hasn't made much of a dent in convincing the public to support a tax on fossil fuels since 1997. The science community has already exhausted the fear card and if the fear of destroying the planet and killing their children and grandchildren didn't move people to take action, the science community might want to consider this as a major clue going forward and maybe consider a different approach with a different message. (This is a good time to plug Roger's books as he has some ideas that might help)

    The science community can blame others until they turn blue, they can continue to claim consensus until they turn blue but none of that matters to people. The public needs and wants to trust climate scientists and thus far the science community hasn't responded IMO.

    They have also become consumed with the idea that there is a cabal of global warming deniers. Like the ID in the "Forbidden Planet" the science community has created an imaginary monster that has unfortunately only become a distraction that prevents them from finding the real reason for not being able to convince the public that new policy is needed. When will they figure out that their continual outrage against an imagined boogeyman only feeds the public perception that the boogeyman is real?

    Thanks Roger I'm done. Now I'll sit back and see if all these PHDs can figure out who was really at fault and if they can regroup and get back in the saddle. Hopefully if they do get back in the saddle they'll ride less like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and more like Gene Autry.

  20. nanodots, perhaps they will ride more like Dudley Do-Right. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_UI0QUQnKXKk/Sk4UQOVRq7I/AAAAAAAAAmw/_luc2g5u88Y/s400/dudley_doright-300x238.jpg