The Frustrating Politics of Climate Inaction

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"The Frustrating Politics of Climate Inaction"

Lisa Lerer’s Politico piece on how moderate Senate Democrats don’t want to do a cap-and-trade bill is extremely frustrating. Neither Mary Landrieu nor Ben Nelson nor Evan Bayh nor Kent Conrad nor Mark Pryor seems to want to say that they don’t think climate change is real. Nor do they want to say that they don’t think it’s a problem. Nor do they want to say that they don’t think it’s a problem caused by emissions of greenhouse gases. Nor do they want to deny that legally binding caps on greenhouse gas emissions are the only reliable way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But it’s also clear that none of them want to say something like “voting for legally binding caps on greenhouse gas emissions would be the right thing to do, but for selfish reasons I choose not to.”

But they also don’t want to vote for legally binding caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

So you’re left with . . . well . . . it’s not really clear what it is you’re left with. You’re left with a lot of quotes. But they tend to be meta. Conrad says “Climate change in an election year has very poor prospects.” And of course Conrad is right. But I am not a US Senator. I can sit here in a detached way and note that, objectively, such US Senators as Kent Conrad of North Dakota seem reluctant to vote for a good climate change bill. But what’s Kent Conrad doing?

Evan Bayh, too, seems like he wants to write a blog about congressional politics:

“We need to deal with the phenomena of global warming, but I think it’s very difficult in the kind of economic circumstances we have right now,” said Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, who called passage of any economywide cap and trade “unlikely.”

It is difficult to deal with and passage of an economywide cap does seem unlikely. But, again, it’s only difficult because Senators are making it difficult. It’s only unlikely because Senators are making it unlikely. If these guys don’t want to vote yes on a clean energy bill, then they should say what their reasons are, not engage in this kind of odd prognostication as if they’re detached observers of the scene.

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