Waxman-Whitehouse-Markey Lead Charge for Climate Action

by Daniel J. Weiss

Suddenly, the capital is awash in climate change fever.  President Obama launched in on January 21st during his inaugural address when he said: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”  The Washington Post reported that after the inauguration

“Obama made a point of highlighting how much emphasis he gave the issue after Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) thanked him afterward for mentioning climate change.

“‘I didn’t just mention it, I talked about it,’ Obama parried, according to Waxman.”

Follow on the heels of President Obama’s commitment, long time climate hawks Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Waxman today announced the formation of a “Bicameral Climate Change Task Force.”

“It will be dedicated to focusing Congressional and public attention on climate change and developing effective policy responses, and will be open to all other Members of Congress interested in collaborating on this issue.”

The three legislators sent a letter to the president today to urge that he develop a plan to accomplish three main goals through executive action.

These three objectives are included in the Center for American Progress’s recommendations for “Building on President Obama’s Clean Energy Successes,” most which can be accomplished by implementing existing laws rather than seeking legislation from Congress.

Opponents of attacking climate change were quick to criticize President Obama.  Climate Wire (subscription required) reported that

“‘The president missed the opportunity to remind listeners that climate change is an international phenomenon which will require international solutions,’ Scott Segal, who represents energy companies on behalf of Bracewell & Giuliani, said in a statement.”

Undoubtedly many congressional defenders of big oil and coal companies will begin to mimic Segal’s sound bite that the United States should not reduce its pollution unless other nation’s do.

Former Obama administration regulatory head Cass Sunstein attacked this notion, noting that the United States would benefit by its pollution reductions regardless.   He noted that there are three benefits of prompt U.S. action:

  • U.S. action “may be a necessary condition for such an accord, and it would certainly increase the likelihood that other nations will act as well.”
  • “Regulation [of carbon pollution] would accelerate current efforts to develop cleaner energy sources.”
  • There is already a “social cost of carbon” that is exacting a toll on our economy.

Sunstein concluded:

“Pragmatic steps by the planet’s most important nation are likely to help spur action by others — and to lead to technological advances that will ultimately be in the interest of the world as a whole.”

Long time leaders Waxman, Whitehouse, and Markey concluded in their letter to the president that

“History’s penalty on inaction will be severe.  We will do everything in our power to help you and Congress meet the moral imperative of protection our nation from extreme climate change.”

With the leadership of President Obama and these three climate hawks, the fever to attack climate change should spread.

Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress.

21 Responses to Waxman-Whitehouse-Markey Lead Charge for Climate Action

  1. Paul Magnus says:

    4. Formulating an emissions task group (with clout) to expedite plans and actions across all government institutions for mitigation and adaption to this challenge.

    And tasked with the task of exploring how ghg emissions can be reduced on a more aggressive timeline in line with the science.

  2. 5. Develop a U.S. National Climate Plan, using an extensive public involvement process, to provide detail, context, and coordination for the federal actions described in (1), while calibrating federal and non-federal actions to sector-by-sector quantitative targets, defining a path to the deep overall reductions needed by 2050.

  3. Presumably, they’ve been working with the WH to roll this out and have a coordinated strategy and action plan. Let’s hope.

  4. From what I watch and hear, Republicans are using this example of Obama’s “liberal agenda”. They seem to hope that this characterization will allow them to be dismissive and ignore everything. We need to find a way to make it clear that saving us all is NOT a liberal agenda item. Maybe, we need ConservAmerica to add their voice right now, before the liberal agenda meme is too firmly planted in the MSM to be uprooted. Something like this may help:

    “Tell the RNC that Conservation is Conservative.” Now that is a meme we could all use, especially when we are conserving our future.

  5. SecularAnimist says:

    Cass Sunstein said: “Regulation [of carbon pollution] would accelerate current efforts to develop cleaner energy sources … and to lead to technological advances that will ultimately be in the interest of the world as a whole.”

    That’s the last thing the fossil fuel corporations and their stooges want to see happen, because it will lead to a massive transfer of wealth from the fossil fuel industry to other sectors of the economy.

    Which is exactly why they spend as much, if not more, money attacking renewable energy technologies as they spend attacking climate science.

  6. Superman1 says:

    Well, it appears the Australians have discovered a shale oil source worth about twenty trillion dollars, according to ( You Aussies are now in fat city!

  7. Sasparilla says:

    It’s great to see Waxman – S. Whitehouse – Markey running forward here.

    As far coordination with the Administration, somebody forgot to tell the Press Secretary after the speech regarding many questions on climate change:

    “Climate change is not — you don’t pursue action that helps deal with that problem just because of the problem itself, but because there are huge opportunities there in alternative energy.”

    “So when we pursue energy independence, when we continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by increasing domestic production of fossil fuel energy but other forms of energy, we enhance our security and protect America’s future in that way.”

    “The President has been clear since he took office that tackling climate change and enhancing energy security was and will be among his top priorities — will be among his top priorities in a second term.”

    There’s a big disconnect between what the speech said and implied (and people are running off thinking) and what the Administration is actually saying (like reaffirming they won’t support a Carbon Tax recently and apparently all in energy development) and its looking a lot like it did back in 2009 (say one thing, do the other).

    The XL will be the point where we see the Administration’s cards here. If they are serious, it will get canceled and there will be a huge backlash, but they’ll do it, otherwise….we have a couple of months to see.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Precisely, which is why it is so hard to be optimistic as long as the USA remains a plutocracy with a veneer of ‘democracy’ applied for purely cosmetic purposes.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Pure bulldust!

  10. Sasparilla says:

    Boy they are – and get the most impact from climate change as a continent (besides the top and bottom of the earth) from using it. It’s interesting Superman1, 10 years ago it looked like oil was going be tightening in supply from there on out (we couldn’t access the shale oil) and natural gas was going to get ever tighter in supply and pricing as well – an economic argument on purely costs grounds on switching from fossil fuels to renewables and tackling climate change was relatively easy.

    Here we are today and that’s all gone – humanity can have as much oil, gas and coal as we can burn…now we have to choose to turn away from all that money and relatively cheap almost unlimited energy. This Australian find exemplifies this change in what the choice looks like quite well.

    Humanity is facing its biggest test here and the dark side of that test has been getting sweetened, a lot, over the last half decade.

  11. BillD says:

    The USA has always been a leader in science, technology and international cooperation. Clearly, the US cannot solve or even slow the impacts of climate change by itself. But it is equally clear that not much can be accomplished without US leadership. I would really like to be proud of my country’s efforts to take action on climate change, just as I am proud of our leadership in many fields of basic science.

  12. Paul Magnus says:

    He rally needs a viable and powerful task force/committee to back him up and advise him on a way forward. Its got to be public so it can garner public support….

  13. Paul Magnus says:

    Cheap oil is still peaking.

  14. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Bill, I know you sincerely believe that but the rest of the world does not need your leadership, it just needs you to stop obstructing a global agreement on action, ME

  15. Ken Barrows says:

    Don’t think that we have quite as much oil and NG as you think. It’s all about the net energy, which no one seems to analyze. Boom can (and I think will) turn to bust quickly. Look at US rig counts over the last ten years.

    20T dollars of oil is not like cans of beans on a store shelf. What’s it going to take to get this out? It’s like all of the unused leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil’s there, but…

  16. Superman1 says:

    There’s no way the Australians will let $20T under their feet go unused, even if it costs $10T to recover it. Anyone who still believes we can get voluntary fossil fuel use reduction is engaging in extremely wishful thinking.

  17. I think I’m with BillD here.

    Several major world governments have been hiding behind US intransigence. Not just China, but even Europe has been increasing coal use, devastatingly wrong, even while doing other things that are positive.

    The US is and has been a huge problem. It’s too easy, too simplistic to think that the U.S. is the only problem.

    We’re still one of dominant economies, probably still the dominant economy. Our leadership is certainly needed.

  18. Superman1 says:

    Sometimes you have to lead by example, and sometimes you have to lead by knocking heads together. The USA is sufficiently powerful to do both, if need be.

  19. Merrelyn Emery says:

    May your beliefs comfort both of you. The rest of us can only hope Obama will send new instructions to his negotiating team, ME

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The EROEI will be pretty dire, and there is no water but the Great Artesian Basin, which they’ll no doubt pollute if they get started. But this is a decadal project, and other calamities will supervene. It just shows how naked, fulminating, greed drives the business detritus, to the detriment of all else, even their own spawn.

  21. Calamity Jean says:

    Until we start leading by example, we have no grounds to start “leading” by knocking heads.