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Not even a rubber mallet? Do “Climate Change Leaders” know how to play hardball?

June 17th, 2009 · 4 Comments

When contemplating the path of climate legislation over the past several years, we must address a continual question and challenge for those (which should be all of us) concerned that our political system is proving unable to come up with a policy and regulatory framework that provides any real hope for putting us (the United States) on a path toward a secure, prosperous and climate-friendly future:  Do climate-change leaders know how to play political hard-ball?

Sadly, the record seems to indicate no.  For example, in the path that led to the Lieberman-Warner Coal-Subsidy Act (misleadingly entitled the Climate Security Act) in 2007-2008, the strongest bills in the House and Senate would have placed the United States on a path toward 80 percent reductions by 2050.  This 80 percent, however, is a minimum target, based on now-dated science, for putting us on a path with a 50 percent chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.  With increased emissions and delay in action, that target is likely insufficient even for that 50 percent. But, even more importantly, does no one in Congress believe that we should aim for something that provides better than a 50 percent chance of avoiding utter catastrophe? As the 80 by 2050 target was the “extreme” case of submitted legislation, the very basic political processes made this “extreme” (but minimum required) case something to be negotiated away from.  Would Chairmans Waxman and Markey been in stronger negotiating positions if some group of Representatives had introduced a bill that aimed for something stronger than 80 by 2050?

Chris Bowers at Open Left has a strong look at this issue, using the lens of focusing on the specific situation of one member of Congress:  self-proclaimed Blue Dog Representative Leonard Boswell. Chris questions, if they think it so important, Why Aren’t Climate Change Leaders Doing Everything Possible to Pass Waxman-Markey?

Chris highlights, in this discussion, how Boswell relied (heavily) on Al Gore’s endorsement in his reelection effort against an insurgent Democrat (Ed Fallon). Yet, since his reelection, Boswell has joined with other Democratic Party members of the Agriculture committee (especially the likely global warming denier chairman Collin Peterson) to stand in unity against the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act

“As this bill stands today, I can’t vote for it,” Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Ia.. “I don’t know of anyone else in the committee who can.”

Boswell and Peterson and others are standing firm against action unless ACES is radically weakened in favor of corporate agricultural interests (especially, but not solely, corn-based ethanol) over sensible climate-friendly agricultural policies.

Vice President Gore has spoken strongly in favor of Waxman-Markey, calling it “the moral significance equivalent to that of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s and the Marshall Plan of the late 1940s.”

If Waxman-Markey really is so unbelievably awesome, as … Al Gore and … keep arguing, then we should be doing everything possible to pass it. Instead, Al Gore and … seem to be giving the Democrats on the Agriculture Committee a free pass on significantly watering down the bill. I have no idea this is happening, but it certainly isn’t because they are using all available, politically realistic means to pass Waxman-Markey.

Chris’ question and challenge is to those who seek, it seems, to shout down questioning of ACES, even as it continues to be weakened and undermined by special interest action. They argue that “this is the best that we can get”. Chris has a suggestion:

Start playing some hardball, or stop telling us that we are about to get the best climate change bill politically possible.

NOTE: DesmoinesDem has an excellent followup and expansion of this discussion at Bleeding Heartland: Paging Al Gore: Leonard Boswell needs to hear from you (updated) which includes a statement from Boswell’s office. Bottom-line:

Al Gore has said global warming is one of the great moral issues of our time. It’s time for him and other prominent environmental advocates to lean on the House Democrats who are undermining Waxman-Markey.

It seems that “climate change leaders” have a hard time bringing down a rubber mallet, let alone acting like “The Hammer“. Considering the challenges before us, as underlined by yesterday’s White House release of a report on the implications of Climate Change for the United States, can we afford not to bring down some hammers?

Sometimes it is not enough to do our best.

We must do what is required.

Winston Churchill.

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Tags: Al Gore · analysis · climate change · climate delayers · climate legislation · Congress · democrats · environmental · Global Warming · government energy policy · politics

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