As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Lazy Species

The White House is about to get more involved in the push for a climate and energy bill, and not a moment too soon. It's really dying on the vine.

The Obama administration will make an intense push to pass climate and energy legislation next week, according to key lawmakers, aides and lobbyists.

The “energy week” comes as the House faces new obstacles to passing a controversial cap-and-trade bill, causing environmentalists to grumble that the White House has not put enough political capital into passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation this year.

The White House plans to dispatch Cabinet officials to push the administration’s energy agenda and urge Congress to pass climate legislation currently under siege from skeptical Democrats in the House.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman is engaging in intense negotiations with rural and fiscally conservative Democrats, who have raised a series of problems with the legislation. He’d like the full House to vote on the bill next week, timing that would coincide with the White House push.

“We’re very close to an agreement,” Waxman said Wednesday. “I want us to see if we can get it on the floor next week.”

Some would say that, with health care reform faltering, we don't need this additional distraction. But it's not like we can hold off on doing something to mitigate climate change. This MIT report came out a few weeks ago to crickets:

The most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth's climate will get in this century shows that without rapid and massive action, the problem will be about twice as severe as previously estimated six years ago - and could be even worse than that.

The study uses the MIT Integrated Global Systems Model, a detailed computer simulation of global economic activity and climate processes that has been developed and refined by the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change since the early 1990s. [...]

Study co-author Ronald Prinn, the co-director of the Joint Program and director of MIT's Center for Global Change Science, says that, regarding global warming, it is important "to base our opinions and policies on the peer-reviewed science," he says. And in the peer-reviewed literature, the MIT model, unlike any other, looks in great detail at the effects of economic activity coupled with the effects of atmospheric, oceanic and biological systems. "In that sense, our work is unique," he says.

The new projections, published this month in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate, indicate a median probability of surface warming of 5.2 degrees Celsius by 2100, with a 90% probability range of 3.5 to 7.4 degrees. This can be compared to a median projected increase in the 2003 study of just 2.4 degrees. [...]

"There's no way the world can or should take these risks," Prinn says. And the odds indicated by this modeling may actually understate the problem, because the model does not fully incorporate other positive feedbacks that can occur, for example, if increased temperatures caused a large-scale melting of permafrost in arctic regions and subsequent release of large quantities of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. Including that feedback "is just going to make it worse," Prinn says.

I mean, good God. And it doesn't even appear that the advocacy groups want to get started and pass something like Waxman-Markey immediately. Indeed, before this White House bailout, practically nobody was even talking about it or working hard to pass it. I get a few emails here and there about clean energy, but nobody defines terms.

Maybe the reason that it seems like Obama has lost all his political capital is that he has to use it up for every little thing. But on this particular issue, climate change, I just think it's the boiling frog issue writ large. We cannot touch and feel the climate changing on a daily basis, we don't see the terrible consequences except in scientific papers, and we just go about our day - what's more, we're HAPPY when it's sunny out.

I just don't know what to do about this. Most political systems, least of all ours, have no ability to be proactive. The Administration does have two things going for it - the ruling allowing the EPA to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act (which the Waxman-Markey bill apparently NULLIFIES), and the December meetings in Copenhagen, a kind of deadline for the Administration to put something in place they can show the world. The rest is a mess.

Labels: , , , ,