Category Archives: climate legislation

What the government shutdown can tell us about the politics of climate legislation

This past Friday, the Diane Rehm show had a discussion about the recent shutdown of the Federal Government as Republicans tried to defund the Affordable Care Act.

There was a brief exchange that illustrates a dynamic I have been harping on for years, with respect to the idea of getting Republicans to vote for climate legislation. The panel is talking about the shutdown and the goal to defund the American Care Act, but the dynamic discussed would apply equally to voting for some sort of cap and trade, carbon tax, or fee and dividend program to cut domestic emissions.

Lori Montgomery:  We’ve reported, you know, endlessly, ad nauseam that Boehner himself, you know, told his rank and file not to try to fight Obamacare on the government funding bill. That was his preference. But you had this campaign led largely by outside groups, like the Jim DeMint-run Heritage Foundation and Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee, who are Tea Party-backed guys. All summer, they were beating the drum against Obamacare. And they turned the heads of enough Republicans that Boehner could not proceed with a clean CR.

Ari Shapiro:  Lori… referenced outside groups which are a huge factor on this, which has gone under-remarked upon. Any Republican who acknowledges reality, that Obamacare is not going to be repealed, that at some point government funding is going to have to go into effect, that they probably will not get their fullest of demands. Any Republican who comes out and says that right now has a target painted on their back by some of these conservative groups that are very intent on funding primary challengers to force Republicans to adhere to this ideology that says we won’t budge.

[S]o many of these Republicans represent these blood-red districts where the demographic trends are going in the opposite direction from the rest of the country. The rest of the country is getting more diverse. It’s getting younger. These districts are getting more white. They’re getting older.

They represent districts where Romney beat Obama by a huge margin. And so the American people that they are representing do not necessarily look like the rest of the American people, and they have no incentive to negotiate with Democrats because that just means they’ll get primaried and kicked out in the next election.

Jeff Mason:  Well, and exactly. It also means that they won’t get punished for what some people think is really irresponsible behavior. It’s quite the contrary. What they’re seeing is that their political base is quite happy with the government shutdown and quite happy with the stand they’re taking on the Affordable Care Act.

Image courtesy of Flickr user “Fibonacci Blue”, used under Creative Commons

So we’re left with this. Even though there are Republicans who were amenable to funding the government rather than shutting it down as a last ditch attempt to sabotage health care legislation, they are constrained by outside interest groups who will primary them at the first sign of ‘appeasement’, and they’re also seated in districts with an increasingly fringe constituency, who are scared, angry and feel like they have lost control of the country.

The same seems to be true for the time being on climate legislation. Polling shows that while people don’t like what they imagine “ObamaCare” to be, they actually quite like the specific provisions of the actual Affordable Care Act. Similarly, polling shows that climate change isn’t perceived as a terribly immediate problem for the average voter, but specific actions relating to mitigating climate change are quite popular. But any Republican that shows a willingness to work on climate legislation is risking ideologically/industry-backed outside groups funding a primary challenge from their right, and their constituents are increasingly out of touch with the country on support for common sense actions on climate.

There are some people who would have you believe that this opposition to the Affordable Care Act, as well as climate legislation, is an organic, bottom up, ‘will of the people’ type thing. The irony of course is that the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act was a conservative/Republican idea created as a market-based alternative to feared universal health care. Similarly, cap and trade was a conservative, market-based alternative to command and control options for pollution regulation, and until relatively recently, embrace of cap and trade (or a carbon tax) was a standard Republican position. The opposition to the Affordable Care Act and climate legislation does not stem from some organic, principled, groundswell of belief about what is best for the country, but rather is a form of tribal identity politics, which is fueled by special interests and think tank astroturfing and discourse policing.

No one could have predicted

Remember how a few years back, supporters of aggressive climate mitigation legislation were castigated for being shrill, tribal, hippies? And how if only we tried a “third way” of making incremental progress with opponents of greenhouse gas limits, a bipartisan tide would lift us all to new clean energy heights?

Good times.

[Via]

Roy Spencer reveals his motivation for rejecting the climate mainstream- not science issues, but economic concerns

Image courtesy of Flickr user "SarahDeer", used under Creative Commons

Straight from the horse’s mouth, emphasis Spencer’s:

[Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin] provided several paragraphs alluding to why scientists on the [mainstream] side of the issue speak out, but nowhere could I find reasons why WE [i.e. the contrarian minority] speak out.

I had told her that ill-conceived energy policies that hurt economic growth kill poor people. Was that not a sufficiently interesting thing to report on?

I guess after a while, even ostensibly serious “skeptics” like Spencer forget that they’re supposed to pretend they’re arguing science instead of a whacked out, far right wing, “economic” ideology.

Although probably unnecessary, it might be worth pointing out that actual economists think that delaying action on climate change will hurt more than using “cheap” fossil energy will help.

Rumors of cap and trade’s demise have been greatly exaggerated

Image courtesy of Flickr user Bernt Rostad

The world’s 8th largest economy is going to enact a cap and trade program to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Apparently they didn’t get the memo that cap and trade is “dead”.

Game changer, or hot air?

Image courtesy of Flickr user dirkjankraan.com

The Times of India reports:

In a dramatic move that will alter India’s climate change policy irrevocably, Jairam Ramesh, speaking at the ministerial summit at Cancun, said India was willing to commit to legally binding commitments as part of an international climate deal.

But that’s not really the meat of it, though it might make better headlines. Ramesh explicitly rejects that such an agreement will come at Cancun. But, further down:

US has talked of binding agreement in the past. Brazil and China, I can tell you clearly, in a Basic [Brazil-South Africa-India-China] meeting expressed support for a legally binding agreement. South Africa has consistently talked of of a legally binding agreement. So have the Chinese and and they are willing to live with it. This is the reality.

And here we go

According to Science Insider:

Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) has staked his claim to the chairmanship of the House Science and Technology Committee

Hall announced his intention to run the Committee while saying:

We must also conduct strong oversight over this Administration in key areas including climate change, scientific integrity, energy research and development (R&D), cybersecurity, and science education. Over the past few years the unprecedented growth of the Federal government and the creation of multiple new and duplicative programs occurred without having first assessed the effectiveness and success of existing programs.

Let the show trials begin!

Hall’s current position on climate change is utterly predictable:

I am alarmed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Obama Administration are forging ahead before Congress has finalized any legislation, and are taking further steps to promote Federal regulations of carbon dioxide. There is growing concern and evidence that scientific data, from which global warming theories emerged, has been manipulated, enhanced or deleted. The IPCC data was used by the EPA as part of the data that went into their endangerment finding. This is especially problematic since the endangerment finding will most likely be used as the basis for a regulatory regime in the U.S.

Recent events have uncovered extensive evidence from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England, which involved many researchers across the globe discussing the destruction, alteration and suppression of data that did not support global warming claims. Leaked email exchanges detail attempts to alter data that is the basis of climate modeling. These exchanges reveal actions that constitute a serious breach of scientific ethics.

Regulations based on the EPA’s endangerment finding could undermine economic growth and destroy American jobs. It is irresponsible for the Federal government to tax energy consumption and put more Americans out of work.

According to OpenCongress, Hall was “one of the largest recipients of oil money” during 2000-2008, and “voted in favor of big oil companies on 82% of important oil-related bills from 2005-2007″. He received a score of 0 during each of the last three Congressional sessions from the League of Conservation Voters.

Bonus Trivia Fact [Via Wiki]: Hall “is the oldest serving member of the House of Representatives and the oldest member of either House of Congress.”

“GOP plans attacks on the EPA and climate scientists”

For those who couldn’t see where all this was heading, read this LA Times article.

Dreams of a “post-partisan”  compromise clean energy “breakthrough” under a Republican-led House are just that- dreams.

UPDATE: Here’s James Fallows on the prospects of clean energy investment in a “divided” (i.e. GOP-led House) US government:

When a party is willing to hamstring the country’s overall prospects, as “collateral damage” in its effort to weaken the other party, the results are bad for everybody. To choose one example, about which I have more to say in an upcoming magazine article: Everybody knows that “green tech” / “clean tech” businesses of many descriptions are going to be a future source of jobs, wealth, influence, and growth. The Chinese government, as we’ve read so often, is putting a lot of money behind them — and will keep doing so over the next decade. The U.S. government has started making such investments in the past couple of years — but these will surely become hostage to “divided government,” since stopping them will be a way of “stopping Obama.” And what will really be stopped is America’s future share of such jobs, wealth, influence, and growth, since you can’t develop these projects through short-term, stop-start spending. Sigh. Rather, Grrrrrr.