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Core Principles in Face of Warming World

April 1st, 2009 · No Comments

Energy and Global Warming are complex, multifaceted, deep subjects. They are beyond the ability of any single person to totally master. And, a great challenge to those focused on them is seeking how to communicate, in a meaningful way, to those who don’t have the ability to dedicate huge chunks of time to learning about the issues.

When it comes to Global Warming, ever more of the Globe is aware. As some say, Katrina opened the door, Al Gore strode purposefully throught it, and now people realize that we need to do “something”. But, defining that something became the next and, perhaps, even harder challenge.

Barack Obama clearly ‘gets it’. Pelosi, Reid, Waxman, Markey, Chu, … We now have adults in charge in Washington.

When it comes to energy and climate legislation, what are some basic core principles? After the fold, I offer three …

Three basic principles:

1. Science Based
2. Polluters Pay
3. Social Equity

At the end of the day, these three principles seem to capture all of the basic core elements by which to judge climate legislation.


Sadly, for all its strengths (and there are many), the climate change elements of the newly introduced American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) do not seem to stand up on first examination.

Science based means that the legislation should be aligned with what the science says is required. The International Panel on Climate Change calls for a reduction to 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. The ACES targets 20% below 2005 levels, about half the minimum IPCC target.

Polluters pay is quite simple at its core: there should be no pollution permit giveaways for a variety of reasons, including avoidance of windfall profits through granting free permits. The ACES seeks to gain buy-in from polluting industries with such giveaways.

Improve social equity basically means that we shouldn’t solve global warming on the backs of the poor and that the process should reduce, rather than worsen, social inequities. In this vein, the bill is less clear —

To be clear …

To be absolutely clear, there are some quite strong elements of the ACES and many good (even if not strong enough) ones, especially in the energy and energy efficiency domains.

And countering the lies …

As Nancy Pelosi says, there will be people who raise issues, “some with reason, some with excuse”. And, many of those will be relying on (consciously or not) lies. Politifact captured a great example of such lies. The Republicans are running with false claims about the cost of global warming legislation even though their cited source is on the record that he told them that their statements misrepresent the work. Politifact concluded their well-documented piece.

If the Republicans had simply misstated the results of the MIT study, the Truth-O-Meter would have been content giving this one a False. But for them to keep repeating the claim after the author of the study told them it was wrong means we have to set the meter ablaze. Pants on Fire.

Brad Johnson built at this at Wonkroom and GESN covered it with The Lies Have It.

This lying Republican messaging is working, as the (false) “it will be bad for the economy” message on climate change action is gaining ground (according to those running/reading the polling). It is false … but since when does truth matter in the political calculus?

When it comes to this bill (or an improved version … please):

  • JOBS!!! JOBS!!! JOBS!!!
  • Economic Opportunity for today’s and tomorrow’s Americans
  • Save the planet: Without question, the cost of doing nothing is far (far) more expensive than doing something.

My perspective is that we need to speak to benefits as the Rs will only be speaking of costs.

Note: See a variation of this discussion from the Lieberman-Warner debate period.

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Tags: cap and trade · climate change · climate legislation · ed markey · Energy · environmental · environmental justice · Global Warming · government energy policy