The Global Warming Bill Crackup

By Chris Mooney | April 26, 2010 8:49 am

Well, so much for getting a new piece of climate legislation introduced today. As ClimateWire reports:

The Senate climate bill sits on the brink of collapse today after the lead Republican ally threatened to abandon negotiations because of a White House push to simultaneously overhaul the nation’s immigration policies.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has been under fire from conservatives for months for helping to shepherd a Democrat-led bid to tackle global warming via a “grand compromise” on energy. But on Saturday afternoon, he signaled the partnership could soon be over.

Graham promised to leave President Obama and Senate Democrats standing at the altar after they started pushing last week for a comprehensive immigration reform bill that he called “nothing more than a cynical political ploy” headed into the 2010 midterm elections.

Oh boy. Need I say that this flap augurs extremely poorly for the chances of getting a bill passed any time soon? The politics of this are hard enough already, and now we’re stopping before we even got started. Quoted in the ClimateWire piece, I think Tom Friedman puts it best:

“The result is, right now … in Beijing, they are high-fiving each other,” Friedman added. “Oh yeah baby. This means the Americans are going to be paralyzed on green tech for another couple of years. China is already leading the world now in wind production, China is already leading the world in solar production. Where industry goes, where research goes.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Global Warming

Comments (33)

  1. Sorbet

    -The result is, right now … in Beijing, they are high-fiving each other

    When they look at us, they are almost always high-fiving each other in Beijing and not just now.

  2. ChH

    In Beijing they’re high-fiving each other?
    That’s exactly backwards. They would LOVE for the USA to continue to enact policies that push its manufacturing base offshore – and that’s exactly what a cap & trade bill would do.
    Also, the thing that is paralyzing green tech in the USA is that government policy picks the winners, not what actually works. If companies knew that they would make money to the degree that their technology excels, they’d proceed with what works without waiting for Washington.
    But with Washington’s policy picking the winners, they’re afraid to get into a project, because by the time the initial research is done, tested in the lab, prototypes built, pilot units put into production, culminating in full commercial units … the next administration will be in power, and the environmental fad du-jour will have changed resulting in massive losses. Companies know this, and THAT is why green tech is paralyzed.

  3. Michael

    This is, in fact, very good news, as the Earth continues to cool down and common sense and science tells us that CO2 is not a pollutant. The bill needs to stay dead if the USA has any remote hope of maintaining economic viability. In addition, AGW has proven to be the most costly and most dangerous scientific fraud in history.

    As least there is a tiny bit of political reason left somewhere…maybe.

  4. moptop

    My suggestion is to just call Miss Lindsey a denialist stooge of the Oil Industry and move on with just Democrat votes… Oh wait, there was an election in Massachusetts.

    Don’t worry though, you don’t need to convince anybody by argument. If you call people stupid denialists enough times, you will win them over and get the kind of political majorities you need for this kind of radical change.

  5. moptop
  6. Guy

    I should probably have waited on immigration until after the climate bill was passed. It should have considerably more importance, but then Arizona did force the issue to the forefront by passing their racial profiling law.

  7. Guy

    “I” should “It”. (should we petition for a preview button?)

  8. Guy

    They should probably have waited on immigration until after the climate bill was passed. It should have considerably more importance. Arizona did force the issue to the forefront by passing their racial profiling law.

  9. GM

    “The result is, right now … in Beijing, they are high-fiving each other,” Friedman added. “Oh yeah baby. This means the Americans are going to be paralyzed on green tech for another couple of years. China is already leading the world now in wind production, China is already leading the world in solar production. Where industry goes, where research goes.

    So what? As if investment in wind and solar energy will make much difference. Even more with the extreme dependency of the two economies to each other – one collapse, the other will follow very soon. Whoever thinks that building a few more windmills and solar panel installations will solve our problem is extremely delusional

  10. Arch Stanton

    Obama and the Dems can’t wait on immigration.

    The health care bill rightly scares the pants off of any American who’s worried about the gargantuan levels of spending our government does. The Dems need something quick that will take the voters’ eye off that ball and get some traction with segments of their base. One of their favorite tricks is to Balkanize various identity groups – convince them to vote their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or what have you, instead of just voting as concerned Americans.

    We don’t know what the final immigration “reform” bill will say, but we know three things about it: 1) It will contain blanket de facto amnesty for 15 million people who, together with their relatives, will make a bee line to the nearest welfare office; 2) It won’t contain the word amnesty; and 3) Lefties will loudly decry anyone who doesn’t go along with it as a racist.

  11. ChH

    Arch Stanton, you’re a racist. There ought to be a law against saying what you said. ;)

  12. Sorbet

    -Whoever thinks that building a few more windmills and solar panel installations will solve our problem is extremely delusional

    Welcome to Friedman’s sunny world, where everything is hunky dory and we can all kick back and relax; “wise Tom” knows exactly what will save the world, and his NYT column “I am so thoughtful” pose says it all.

    It’s time to re-read Matt Taibbi’s devastating take-down of Friedman’s first book.

  13. moptop

    Oh yeah, don’t forget, “Climategate” didn’t mean anything.

  14. GM

    Sorbet @ 14:

    When I posted this I meant that Friedman has little clue about what he’s talking about. So do you apparently

  15. Guy

    I’m not sure what Tom Friedman has to do with the Global Warming Bill. He might not be the best writer in the world, but at least he isn’t in denial that AGW is real.

  16. Sorbet

    16: There’s no confusion here. We are on the same page as far as criticizing Friedman is concerned. The man thinks that waving multiple magic wands (solar! wind! globalization!) is instantly going to solve our major problems.

  17. Guy

    @Sorbet,

    What alternative solutions have you come up with? Just complaining about other people’s views is not solving the problem. You are no better than he is. If you deny AGW you are far worse because then you are bent on distracting others from solving the problem.

    If we keep going at this rate we just might get somewhere in a few hundred years. Too bad by then we will have already suffered the consequences of inaction.

  18. GM

    Guy @ 19

    The tragedy of the situation is that there are no solutions. However, we are conditioned to think that there is always a solution to every problem by the culture we have grown up in, and we can not accept that we have painted ourselves into such a corner that nothing that can be done to avert the worst consequences of our actions will ever be seen as a solution. There are such things that can be done but they all involve some serious downsizing and reduction of consumption and population and a drastic rethinking of what exactly it means to be a human. But, obviously none of this will ever be agreed upon because it requires us to actually admit that we have been living in a fairy tale world and we need to grow up and face reality.

    While we should be building solar panels and windmills much faster and on a much larger scale than we are currently, this does not mean that solar panels and windmills can power our the kind of operation we are trying to sustain right now, much less support future growth of the system. If you don’t understand that the numbers just don’t add up, you are doing nothing but some more greenwash and we already have enough of that

  19. Sorbet

    GM, buddy, what the hell is wrong with you? Where on earth did I deny AGW? I don’t know why but you seem to have gotten a bee stuck in your bonnet. All I did was agree with you and point out Freidman’s well-meaning inanity. And by the way you are no better than he is; I don’t see you suggesting concrete solutions. I have always maintained that nuclear is our best bet for the short term future. As William Tucker says, it would provide a safe, high-intensity, carbon-free source till other potential technologies come online. I would recommend Tucker’s book along with Gwyneth Cravens’s book. Take a look.

  20. Sorbet

    Quit being a bitter old worry-wart who alienates his friends. We need to stick together if we have to combat AGW, that’s for sure.

  21. Guy

    I think nuclear power will be necessary but I cringe a bit when they tell us it’s perfectly safe. They said the same about coal mining and offshore drilling. Recent events shows us that what is often claimed to be perfectly safe is far from it.

  22. GM

    Sorbet @ 21:

    Sorry about that, I misunderstood the tone of the post, my bad.

    Nuclear is not a solution though because there isn’t enough uranium nor there is enough time and trained people to build the number of power plants necessary to offset decline rates of fossil fuels

  23. Guy

    @GM,

    Have you done the calculations on the alternatives to fossil fuels or are you just guessing?

    I think someone did some calculations for meeting our current power needs with just clean/renewable energy and they came up with something that was difficult to do but doable. They might have been optimistic about uncertain variables like solar input and wind performance, but supposedly their models did take all that into account.

  24. GM

    Yes, I’ve done the calculations, where I differ from people like MacKay is not how doable it is but how doable it is in the current socioeconomic setting and whether it is doable on time

  25. Guy

    OK, so what’s needed is a WWII type of effort, but because for socioeconomic reasons there’s not enough patriotic support for it like there was for WWII. The fossil fuel industry, like a cornered animal, is going to lash out with P.R. campaigns designed to disrupt efforts to switch to clean/renewable energy. So where does that leave us? Just Screwed?

  26. GM

    Basically yes, we’re just screwed

    A WWII type of effort towards renewable energy alone will not suffice, it may not even be possible without completely giving up on profit-driven free market capitalism. But even if we were to try it, sustainability is not achievable without slaughtering the following sacred cows: free markets, democracy, religion, and human rights as we understand them today. There’s no way around this as there are major features of the above-mentioned things that will guarantee with 100% the collapse of civilization if they still have the influence on our thinking and behavior they do now

  27. Eric the Leaf

    In my estimation GM is essentially correct in that there are no real solutions, as traditionally thought of, to our resource problems. And the most obvious is that simply finding the energy to replace depleting or soon to be diminished fuel does not tackle the problem of both continued growth and the strain on other finite substances. Stated differently, we are already in a condition of biological overshoot, nature will redress the imbalance, and we may help or hinder that process, but not find a “solution” to it.

    Just for fun, I often do some rough calculations with my students using simple assumptions. For example how many “average-sized” nuclear reactors, running for one year, would it take to provide the electrical energy having the equivalent of the energy of combustion of the gasoline consumed in the USA during one year. The answser is in the vicinity of 500 nuclear reactors. I have students do similar calculations with wind turbines, solar panels, and so on.

  28. Guy

    “is not achievable without slaughtering the following sacred cows: free markets, democracy, religion, and human rights as we understand them today”

    I strongly disagree with this notion. A totalitarian world-wide regime would not work. It would have to allocate most of it’s resources to fighting a global rebellion rather than global warming. Also, absolute power tends to corrupt even the most noble of leaders. China has the type of totalitarian control you speak of and they are world’s biggest polluter and their government is very corrupt. They are constantly having to maintain a police state just to maintain order. It’s not uncommon for them to execute thousands of people per year. We definitely don’t want to follow in their foot steps. Thankfully, most of the Western world is more sensible than they are so it’s highly unlikely to every happen.

    We probably can turn things around, without giving up freedom, but it’s going to take a lot of work to get there.

  29. Sorbet

    24: No sweat. I simply think nuclear is better than large-scale solar or wind, and most people are ignoring it in spite of whatever chances it has of AGW mitigation. Uranium should not be a problem. There are lots of low-grade ores, and thorium is even more abundant.

  30. ChH

    There is a good long-term solution to the energy problem, but it is at least decades away from becoming commercially viable: fusion-powered thermo-electric generators. All of the other solutions mentioned here are either temporary or only capable of supplying a small portion of our total energy demand.

  31. GM

    Guy @ 30

    I know that totalitarian regime have problems, and I don’t think a world-wide totalitarian regime can realistically do the job, precisely because it will be overthrown very quickly. That said, of the forms of government historically practiced by humanity, a world-wide totalitarian regime has the best chances of tackling this kind of problems because it can enforce unpopular measures on the masses. As you said though, it is unlikely this will last sufficiently long to make a difference, without major rebellions against it, so it’s not really a solution.

    If, however, we had a population that was sufficiently educated and understood basic science and the relations between the existence of humans and the ecosystems and material resources of the planet that support it, then there would be no need for a repressive totalitarian regime. Remember that the separation between state/government on one side and people on the other is completely artificial. The people are the government and the state, there isn’t much difference between the people who hold governmental positions and the average people on the street. People will always complain “The government is corrupt” but this only means that the people in that country are corrupt – if you put one of those same people who are complaining in a position to be corrupt and benefit from it, he will most likely behave the same way the people he is criticizing behave. Because in reality (maybe on subconscious level, maybe he realizes it) he isn’t mad that someone else is making money by being corrupt, he is mad because he isn’t the one who is in a position to do it. Anyway, the point is that historically totalitarian regimes have become repressive not because they were totalitarian but because the people who were running them weren’t really up to the task. I come from a former socialistic country in Eastern Europe and a lot of the stuff that the regime was doing was totally and completely unnecessary and often outright stupid (for example why on Earth would you ban Beatles when if anything their message is more supportive of the ideas your regime is supposed to promote than the principles of the “rotten capitalism”) and in the end it fell apart because of that – few were aware of the fact that people have been actually killed in camps and stuff like that, but the daily pointless serving no actual purpose restrictions were what destroyed the system. And it happened because the regime was doing a very poor job of educating the population why it was better than the western alternative and I am not trying to determine whether it was better or worse, I am just pointing out that in the end it devolved into people who had completely forgotten why exactly it is that they were trying to hold onto power, even at the very top level.

    If you could somehow set up and maintain for a generation or two a world-wide “totalitarian regime” that without unnecessary repression manages to somehow drill into the minds of the population why it is that we have to restrain ourselves, then the thing may become self-sustaining and there will be no need for further repression as people will understand why certain things have to be done and will do them themselves, without having to be told from on top. But it will require understanding that our problem is that what’s good for the individual is in general not good for the species as a whole as if we try to allow for each individual to pursue what he thinks is good for him, we head straight into ecological overshoot. Which is why the list of sacred cows to be slaughtered includes the things it does – free markets, democracy, and the current list of basic human rights codify our selfish evolutionary urges to make more copies of our genes and hoard more resources for us and our progeny and are incompatible with a sustainable society in their current form, and religion prevents us from even recognizing that there is such a thing as ecological overshoot as it teaches us that we are somehow “above nature” and the rules don’t apply to us

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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