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Environment

Climate Bill Passes House Committee, and Some Enviros Jump Ship

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I really don't know what is going on with some folks in the environmental community right now, or with James Hansen, but Joe Romm is my hero. Let's backtrack: Last night, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a marked up version of the Waxman-Markey climate bill, which would totally remake our energy economy. It would cap carbon emissions and ratchet them down more than 80 percent by 2050, and it would create a host of new incentives for investment in clean energy. The bill passed by a 33-25 margin, even winning over some unexpecteds, such as Mary Bono Mack, a California Republican. It was, as is inevitable, the product of political compromise. This is not a bad thing. It is not dirty, it is not wrong, and it is the only way to get anything done, ever, in Washington. The bill also, it might be noted, terrifies much of industry and many Republicans, who have been trying doggedly to stop it, and yet so far have failed. And yet some green groups, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Public Citizen, are also slamming the legislation from the left, saying it "reflects the triumph of politics over science, and the triumph of industry influence over the public interest" and is "not only inadequate it is counterproductive." At a time when the President, Al Gore, and Henry Waxman are applauding the bill's passage, key environmental groups are jumping ship. Why can't our side have unity and a coherent message for once? Let's quote Joe Romm:

Every journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step — including stopping human-caused global warming at “safe levels,” as close as possible to 2°C. Many people have asked me how I can reconcile my climate science realism, which demands far stronger action than the Waxman-Markey bill requires, and my climate politics realism, which has led me to strongly advocate passage of this flawed bill. The short answer is that Waxman-Markey is the only game in town. If it fails, I see no chance whatsoever of stabilizing anywhere near 350 to 450 ppm since serious U.S. action would certainly be off the table for years, the effort to jumpstart the clean energy economy in this country would stall, the international negotiating process would fall apart, and any chance of a deal with China would be dead. Warming of 5°C or more by century’s end would be all but inevitable, with 850 to 1000+ ppm. If Waxman-Markey becomes law, then I see a genuine 10% to 20% chance of averting catastrophe — not high, but not zero.

Romm's is a voice of realism, and also of hope. This is the kind of perspective we need. I also appreciate the perspective of 1Sky, somewhat harder on the bill, but not taking the extreme step of refusing to support it:

We believe that the ACES bill introduced by Chairmen Henry A. Waxman (CA-30) and Edward J. Markey (MA-7) is the only viable legislative opportunity we have before the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December of 2009 to move the United States toward a clean energy economy that will create jobs, strengthen our economy, make us more energy independent, and limit dangerous global warming pollution. Representatives Waxman and Markey have worked tirelessly day and night to try to deliver a bill that will provide a clean energy future. However, it is clear given the changes since the discussion draft that Big Oil, Dirty Coal, and other polluters are continuously working to weaken the bill and secure funds and bailouts for their industries on the backs of American consumers. In the last three months alone, oil, coal, and natural gas companies have outspent environmental groups 16 to 1. The industries spent $79 million to lobby Congress, outspending the Green community’s comparatively meager $4.7 million in the same time period. Exxon-Mobil alone spent $9.3 million, over twice the amount of money spent by the entire environmental community combined. As this bill moves through Congress, 1Sky is resolved to be 16 times louder, and will count on the power and resolve of ordinary citizens from all walks of life, channeling their voices in ways that move and improve this bill, to make up for the disparity in the financial resources we have to apply to the task.

Yes indeed. Let's work as one force to get this bill passed, and perhaps even strengthen it. Let's follow the lead of Henry Waxman, President Obama, and others who are finally working to do something about global warming. Let's make common cause, for once, on the left and in the environmental community. It is about time.

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