Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Climate Legislation To Be Introduced Next Monday

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Next week will start a period of time in which a lot of discussion will focus on the climate and energy legislation that Sens. Kerry, Graham and Lieberman have been working on for the better part of a year now.  I have my own expectations of the legislation, based on the science of climate change and the very real potential for that change to become catastrophic to Earth’s ecosystems and a threat our species’ survivability.  I will, at the beginning, share that I do not think my expectations will be met.  I think that if we haven’t passed critical tipping points in the climate system already, then we will do so before the American legislature finally musters the political will to act in accordance with the threat, at which time it will be too late to prevent the worst effects from taking place.

Joe Romm, at Climate Progress, has the following to say (emphasis his):

No bill that could pass Congress right now or in the immediate future would be sufficient to put us on the path to stabilizing the world at 2°C. We simply aren’t sufficiently desperate to do what is needed, which is nonstop deployment of a staggering amount of low-carbon energy, including efficiency, for the rest of the century.

I think Democrats really screwed up the health care debate.   Instead of fundamentally changing a broken system, they decided to force more Americans into that broken system while doing little to nothing to ensure that costs will slow their astronomical rise.  Giving the Cons everything they did during the year of “debate” while securing not one vote in return set a precedent that will come to haunt progressives for years.  The financial industry?  Nothing with teeth in it will pass Congress this year.  Banks that are too big to fail will continue to exist and gamble with our money in 2010 and beyond.  Immigration?  Arizona is certainly forcing the issue with their extremist, race-based approach.  But Congress won’t substantially fix that broken system this year either.  How many giveaways to the Cons will Dems make in return for zero votes – does anyone care to guess before things get going?

Which takes me to climate legislation.  As Romm points out, we need to stabilize at 2°C.  Because of the ridiculous precedent that was set with the health insurance giveaway, and will continue with the financial sector and immigration, nothing Congress passes will get us close to that 2°C.  The result won’t become apparent in the next year or two.  But in the next 10 years; in the next 25 years; in the next 50 years, the failure to pass something substantial in 2010 will lock in many degrees more warming and acidify the worlds oceans for centuries to come.  Romm identifies things that by the 2020s we’ll want to have done already to set the table for future legislation.  The 2020s will be too late.

If this year’s legislative effort falls short or fails to pass, I want the Democrats of today who support Congress’ lack of action to relay this silly message to our future generations: “We couldn’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.”  I’m sure those future generations will be thankful that people in the early 21st century put off so many of today’s actions off until tomorrow.  Surprise me Democrats and pass something worthwhile.  Far too much depends on the opportunity facing you today.

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