Two issues that are being addressed by the 111th Congress and President Obama provide an interesting example of the importance of immediacy and framing. As this post’s title suggests, I’m talking about legislation to deal with our breaking climate and our broken health care system. The way potential solutions are being proposed and discussed provide an interesting contrast.
On the one hand, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) was passed by the House of Representatives a couple of weeks ago. There was plenty of talk about how the bill didn’t go far enough by climate activists. Some activists, including myself, wondered if the bill should have been voted on in the form it took. As I quickly detailed yesterday, other countries are taking more aggressive steps to ramp down their carbon emissions and ramp up their renewable energy capabilities. I don’t think the ACESA bill, as currently written, will do enough to cut carbon emissions from history’s biggest polluter: the U.S, in time to prevent 2°C or more warming globally. Yet most of what I read and heard after the House vote revolved around something like this: “This bill isn’t perfect, but it’s better than nothing”; “It’s a step in the right direction” and so on. What I didn’t hear, especially from progressive House members, was a refusal to vote for a bill that didn’t get done what science demands to be done. What I didn’t hear was a refusal to vote for a bill that didn’t do what a majority of Americans wanted it to do. Does anyone seriously think Americans wanted the House to give billions in corporate welfare to the nuclear, oil, natural gas and coal industries? Because that’s what had to be stuck into the bill while at the same time reducing emissions and renewable energy targets.