Do the Election Results Halt All Action on Climate Change?

By Andrew Moseman | November 4, 2010 11:00 am

Cane PlantWhen we last left Washington’s attempt at climate and energy legislation this summer, the House of Representatives had narrowly passed its bill, but the Senate’s crashed and burned. With the dust settling from from Tuesday’s midterm elections and Republicans preparing to assume majority in the House, what’s next?

Congressional gridlock

Yesterday President Obama conceded that legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions is not going to happen under the incoming Congress.

“Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way,” Obama said at a news conference Wednesday, a day after Democrats lost control of the House. “I’m going to be looking for other means to address this problem.” [AP]

Cap-and-trade had been part of of the bill that the outgoing House passed this summer. But, AP reports, 30 representatives who supported the bill were among the dozens voted out of office on Tuesday.


Obama didn’t clarify what he meant by “other means to address this problem,” but one option that’s been on the table—and subject to controversy—is using the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases. The Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA upheld the agency’s authority in this arena back in 2007. However, using the EPA is less than ideal for a number of reasons: Its leadership changes from administration to administration, making climate rules potentially temporary and likely to change when a new party gains control of the White House. And it bypasses Congress, which doesn’t make Congress happy.

Democratic Senator John Rockefeller may push for a vote this month that would suspend EPA regulations for two years. That would come before the new Republicans are sworn in, and Obama would surely veto the measure if it succeeds. But it could become the first in a series of challenges to EPA rules. [Scientific American]

Endless climate hearings?

By controlling the House, Republicans also assume control over inquiries and hearings.

Many climate scientists, still reeling from a year of largely unsubstantiated accusations and attacks, are already girding for battle, with some publicly decrying the prospect of congressional hearings on climate science under the impending shift to Republican control of the House. [The New York Times]

However, scientists real concern may turn out to be funding, not being trotted down to Washington for a made-for-TV grilling by Congress. That would be true even if cuts to science funding are not focused on climate.

This election almost guarantees an end to the brief stimulus-driven period of increased investment in advancing energy technologies that could supplant finite fossil fuels. [The New York Times]

California stays the course

Not all climate and energy proposals hit the skids with Tuesday’s results. In California, voters shot down Proposition 23, what the Los Angeles Times called “the oil industry sponsored initiative” to put the brakes on that state’s aggressive policies to cut greenhouse emissions.

In 2006 California passed a law—the Global Warming Solutions Act (Assembly Bill 32)—that pledged the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emission levels back to 1990 levels by 2020. That’s reducing to 427 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted per year; current emissions in the state are roughly 525 million metric tons of greenhouse gases and have been projected to exceed 600 million metric tons by 2020 without such efforts. [Scientific American]

Voters rejected the ballot measure, which means the ambitious climate rule stays. It appears the deep pockets of the oil companies that wanted to overturn California’s rule were no match for the deep pockets of Silicon Valley and other tech entrepreneurs who see green tech as a huge investment opportunity.

The independent Texas-based refiners, Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., which launched the initiative along with the California Manufacturers and Technology Assn. and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn, were outspent 3 to 1 as $31 million poured in from venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, Intel’s Gordon Moore, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Google’s Sergey Brin, along with other wealthy California philanthropists and national conservation groups. [Los Angeles Times]

Related Content:
DISCOVER: It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Big Battle Over Climate Science, interviews with Judith Curry & Michael Mann
80beats: Skip the Political Babbling: Here’s What the Kerry-Lieberman Climate Bill Says
80beats: Climate Bill Passes in the House, Moves on to Senate
80beats: Senators Cut Climate Change Rules and Renewables From Energy Bill

Image: iStockphoto

  • JMW

    I realize that time is short, however…

    …if a Republican-controlled House convenes a series of hearings into climate science, the result could be a backlash if they become to McCarthyistic.

  • Lou Miller

    This has been a sad day for the US and the planet. Congressional hearings, R&D funding, lawsuits, handcuffing the EPA, disincentives to be carbon-neutral are all now much more possible with the winds blowing in the direction of the Tea Party, a construct of AFP, a construct of the Koch Brothers. The Kochs won the national election (although here in California they didn’t succeed on Prop. 23) and as the window on effective action is closing rapidly they have double-handedly made it almost impossible for the US to lead the international effort for at least the next two years. Rousing a scientifically ignorant public (see latest Yale study that gave D’s or F’s to three quarters of the public on their climate science knowledge) with their “mad as hell” Tea Party appeal was a brilliant political move, but may be disastrous for the planet.


    I hope so! And may it never come back.

  • Wayne

    Prop 23 failed because of a propaganda storm by the AB 32 shills. Asthmatic children ads when CO2 does no effect asthma? No shame…

    The day after Prop 23 is voted down, how ironic;
    Fremont-based solar panel maker Solyndra Inc. is scrapping its expansion plans.

    The company said Wednesday it has decided against enlarging its new Fremont plant and will close another factory in the San Francisco Bay area.

    Company spokesman David Miller tells the Oakland Tribune Solyndra needs to cut production costs amidst fierce competition from rival manufacturers in China and elsewhere in the United States.

    The company plans to eliminate 155 to 175 jobs at its Fremont site and cap its workforce at about a 1,000 people.

    Read more:

  • scott

    Wayne – in going green… There will still be competition from China as it “goes green” and manufactures so called green products at cheaper prices than could be made in the US – same with all products and services that migrate to China and India.

    You are right, CO2 does not affect asthma perhaps, but all the other soots, chemical compounds, dusts, heavy metals, etc that come with the abuse of fossil fuels do, in fact, affect asthma and host of other diseases. This obsession over CO2, and people forget about all the other, much nastier compounds lingering in the air, environment, their blood streams, etc from our wasteful, sloppy use of resources. Of course, climate is important, ice caps, polar bears, but that has taken focus away from all the other crud we are still allowing into the environment that I feel is much worse for our biological web than CO2 and a few degrees, they are just tied together, a vast reduction in fossil fuel use will mean a vast reduction in chemical pollutants.

    Regardless, I don’t want bible thumping, obese, close minded, “know it all” Texans meddling in what California does.

  • Cladinator

    I just can’t read this partisan, commie BS anymore. This is horrible.

  • Jotaf

    What’s funny and sad at the same time is the preposterous idea that ad spending correlates highly with votes. It’s out of this world!

  • Lorne50

    Many climate scientists, still reeling from a year of largely unsubstantiated accusations

    Are you guy’s for real That is the most bias statement I’ve ever read on this site I guess i now know which mag i’ll not renew this time shame on you for losing your science to go into pushing one side of a science that is not settled at all!!!

  • Bob White

    Why does Discover continue its 25 history of promoting far left pseudo science? Why can’t Discover find a writer motivated to DISCOVER and reveal actual scientific facts instead of repeating scientifically discredited far left propaganda? Is it because there is a big market for it, or is it that the Discover editors have made up their minds and they don’t want to know the truth?

    They could be being paid off by GE, Big Oil and other international corporations who stand to make big money if Cap and Tax is implemented. Or they could be ideologues, like many world leaders who have declared over the last 30 years, that they support the anti-AGW movement whether AGW is true or not because it is a good motto on which to promote Redistribution of Wealth and Global Government.

    JMW – you are about as naïve on McCarthy as you are on AGW as are your fellow travelers who have been indoctrinated, not educated. Google The Venona Papers!

  • Eliza Strickland

    @ Lorene50 and Bob White:

    The scientific consensus is strong and clear: heat-trapping gases emitted by humans since the industrial revolution are warming the planet. Here’s a good report on the state of climate science, produced by more than 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries.

    Here’s a striking global temperature graph from NASA.

    Here’s a study (available for free download) on the credibility of climate scientists on both sides of the “debate” over man-made global warming. It found that 97–98% of the most active and respected researchers in the field agree that human activities are warming our planet; it also found that “the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC [anthropogenic climate change] are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.”

    — Eliza, DISCOVER online news editor

  • Crow

    Climate change – it’s on their minds


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