Due to warming, an enormous iceberg, right, breaks off the Knox Coast in the Australian Antarctic Territory. (AP photo, January 2008)
What will the next president do about global warming?
ASK THIS | March 06, 2008
McCain, Clinton, Obama all back a cap-and-trade program, something Bush rejected early on. Reporters should now ask the candidates how they would follow through on their campaign pledges.
By Darren Samuelsohn
This year's presidential campaign promises to be the first where both candidates support a significant change in U.S. global warming policy.
All of the remaining White House hopefuls back legislation establishing a cap-and-trade program to curb heat-trapping greenhouse gases from across the U.S. economy – something President Bush rejected shortly after taking office.
While they differ on some key details, the basic agreement among Sens. John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton marks a historic turning point in environmental politics. It also is sure to please many foreign leaders who have long wanted Washington to put greater emphasis on climate change.
McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, may be most responsible for this new political dynamic.
Despite pressure from his party's conservative base, the Arizona senator hasn’t backed down from his long-standing position in support of a cap-and-trade bill.
In fact, McCain recently went on the attack by suggesting he would be a better president on global warming compared with either of his Democratic rivals.
"They've never proposed any legislation," McCain told me in a Feb. 13 interview. "They've never been involved in any discussion or debate on that issue that I know of. I've been in a leadership role. That's dramatically different."
To be fair, both Obama and Clinton have proposed on the campaign trail to go even further than McCain when it comes to backing a mid-century target for reducing U.S. emissions by 80 percent compared to 1990 levels. That's roughly in line with the recommendations of the Nobel prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Cap-and-trade is a market-friendly approach governments use to regulate pollution. To deal with global warming, companies every year would face an increasingly stronger limit on the amount of greenhouse gases they release. If they go beyond their requirements, they can sell their extra permits on the open market to companies that don't do as much to clean up their emissions.
Unlike McCain, the two Democrats also support a requirement that industry compete in an auction for all of the permit credits necessary for compliance with a new trading market for greenhouse gases. Environmentalists demand this key design feature, but some of the country's big electric utility companies insist instead on a system where they get the permits for free.
On the campaign trail, all the presidential candidates talk about their strengths in building coalitions. But that rhetoric will be put to the test this spring when the Senate holds floor votes on a cap-and-trade bill sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.).
The compromise plan has weaker emission targets than what the Democratic candidates want. McCain says he will hold out for stronger incentives for nuclear power. But the Lieberman-Warner bill wasn't built for winning the Democratic primary or a general election; its sponsors just need to get the 60 votes that would overcome a filibuster from skeptics who don't even think climate change is a problem.
At this point in 2008, it's far from clear whether the Lieberman-Warner bill will pass in the Senate, let alone see a corresponding House measure make it to final passage. Bush also stands out as an obstacle.
Ask most climate policy experts and they'll predict the Capitol Hill debate carries over into the next administration. Environment groups nervous about too much compromise seem willing to wait for the next president. But don't count out power companies from making their own last-minute push for a bill after the election – especially if Democrats win the White House and expand their Senate and House majorities.
There are a number of other moving parts to this debate that make it more complicated. The EPA won authority in March 2007 from the Supreme Court to begin regulating greenhouse gases. And more than a dozen states have their own climate laws and regulations in place.
The next president's workload also will be full with a series of international climate change meetings aimed at finding a new treaty to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. There's already a December 2009 deadline to finish those talks at a conference in Copenhagen. But it won't be an easy task, given several years of pent up frustration aimed at the United States, which culminated last December when diplomats loudly booed the Bush administration during the end of negotiations in Bali, Indonesia. Another big hurdle: what to do about the soaring emissions from China and India.
Here are questions for the presidential candidates on their pledges to deal with climate change:
Q. If elected, will they send Congress legislation? Will they order EPA to write greenhouse gas regulation?
Q. How much compromise is acceptable to get cap-and-trade legislation through Congress?
Q. What will the Democratic candidate say to environmental groups who want emission reduction targets beyond what may be politically possible?
Q. How will McCain address conservatives who don't think climate is even an issue? Will McCain appoint an EPA administrator and secretary of Energy who support the regulation of greenhouse gases?
Q. What should a global warming bill say about expansion of U.S. nuclear power?
Q. How should a U.S. climate law be designed so that it satisfies industry and labor concerns about harming the economy?
Q. What should happen to state and city climate laws and policies should Congress adopt a federal cap-and-trade law?
Q. What signals should the new U.S. administration send for upcoming international climate negotiations?
Q. What specific requirements should China and India be required to accept before the United States signs up for a new post-Kyoto agreement?
Where Was Nieman??
R C - Ra Conteur
05/10/2008, 12:32 PM
The disappointing lesson we will learn from the Global Warming campaign is the lack of independent, scientific debate. Al Gore, IPCC, climate scientists, environmental hardliners and scores of grant-addicted researchers went along with the hailstorm of cataclysmic predictions. The few, and the courageous scientists who dared to question the "movement" were excommunicated, ridiculed, de-funded. Good people; very good people were hurt.
Where was our watchdog press for this ride? Where were those who know that even in the interest of greater good - a fabrication is a fabrication, destined for collapse. The value of any system, human, terrestrial or astronomical is the balance provided by opposing forces. The anthropogenic global warming scenario, so furious to make us believe and react, refused open, opposing, scientific debate. Instead claiming that the "Consensus is in," and the Nobel laureates all agreed.
On May 1, 2008 in a peer reviewed scientific paper published in Journal Nature, the principle authors of the IPCC AR4 have acknowledged they erred. For the last ten years there has been a mild cooling cycle on Earth. For the next ten years a mild cooling cycle is predicted. Thereafter a warming trend is predicted due in part to green house gases and natural cycles. No link between a rise in atmospheric CO2 and global warming has ever been confirmed.
It is better that the goals sought by the global warming advocates be met with solid science, policy and international diplomacy. It is better for the evolution of human beings. But where was the press through all this? Where was the mitigating voice of reason? Where was a channel for opposing points of view? Almost nowhere. Such an environment is not a democracy. It is not an open and willing society. It is a puppet state following a totalitarian playbook. The playbook is being corrected. And hopefully, a lesson has been learned by all.