Over at Salon, climate expert Joseph Romm has a poignant update on the Senate’s most recent bout with global warming denial. The setting was a debate over the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, intended to regulate CO2 by setting emissions caps and creating a trading system for carbon allowances. Among the highlights he describes:
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.: “The vast majority of scientists do not believe that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are a major contributor to climate change.” Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.: This bill means “people must turn off air-conditioning in the summer.” Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.: “This bill will attack citizens at the pump” and “increase job losses.” Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.: This bill will “leave us less competitive in the world marketplace.” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.: This bill “could bankrupt U.S. air carriers.” Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo.: “Nobody in their right mind” believes we can get half our power from wind and solar or drive a “fleet of golf carts.” Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo.: “It’s unclear as to what the long-range trend is as far as the temperature of the Earth is concerned.”
His point is as troubling as it is well-made: Conservatives have a powerful political edge in the climate change debate, and they’re pulling it out at every opportunity.
Political and social controversy over fighting global warming has always hedged on the pressure between immediate needs versus less immediate dangers—now, with record fuel prices on top of a sagging economy, needy voters are even more primed to back the Senator who pledges to keep taxes low and gas cheap.
Of course, the reality, as Romm points out, will make few voters truly happy:
In fact, the overall message of the climate bill needs to change. The public needs to realize that higher fossil fuel prices are inevitable unless we take an aggressive government-led action to deploy clean energy technologies. We need to understand that even the Bush administration’s own Energy Department says drilling for oil offshore or in Alaska will never have a significant impact on gasoline prices. The supply is too little, the global-demand rise is too inexorable. If the public doesn’t understand this, it’s hard to see how it will get behind the necessary action in the face of all of the obfuscation and demagoguing by conservatives.