Why a Bill in 2008: Same Politics in 2009

Steve CochranThis post is by Steve Cochran, National Climate Campaign Director at Environmental Defense. It’s the first in a series on Why a Bill in 2008:


1. Same Politics in 2009
2. Good versus Perfect
3. The Price of Waiting
4. The World is Waiting
5. Best Answer to High Gas Prices

The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (CSA) is a solid bill, but it’s not perfect. And this is the last year of the Bush administration. The new administration, whatever the party, may be more supportive of action to halt climate change. So aren’t we likely to get a better bill through Congress if we wait for the next administration?

In a word, no. And moreover, we can’t afford to wait. Here’s why.

As David Roberts explains on Grist, a new administration doesn’t mean effortless passage of climate change legislation:

  • The politics of climate change is as much regional as partisan, and that’s not going to change. Some states rely heavily on coal power, for example. We’ll still have the same interest groups pushing back in 2009 that we have in 2008.
  • Sixty votes are needed in the Senate to force a change, and no serious political observer believes we’ll have 60 liberal environmental senators any time soon. Passing a bill will require compromises in 2009 just as it will in 2008.
  • Climate change will not be at the top of the new president’s agenda. A possible recession, the war in Iraq, and healthcare will take priority. It could be a year or more before attention shifts back to the climate, and that’s a huge loss of time and momentum.

We have incredible momentum right now, and we can’t let the opportunity pass. There is growing support in the Senate, the House, major corporations across the country, religious groups, and the country at large. Momentum doesn’t last forever, and waiting is a dangerous bet.

Plus we can’t afford to wait. More on this, and why waiting doesn’t guarantee a better bill, in future posts.

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  1. fred1
    Posted January 26, 2008 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    Why do you people hate Americans and the rest of the world so much? i am just trying to understand. historical facts show that the Earth has been warmer in the past, including North America and Europe, and this coincided with periods of prosperity for civilization. i think you grossly overestimate the impact CO2 emissions have on the global temperature. if anything admit the urban heat island grossly distort temperature readings. also admit that land use (forests to farmland probably serves to minimize CO2 sinks, but of course since CO2 does not actually effect global temps that is not a big deal). But since there are alarmists who believe that CO2 is to blame as well Methane and other gases than we need to do the following first before embarking on these zany ideas:

    lets pass laws to kill all livestock (cows, pigs, etc.) as it has been shown that they emit more greenhouse gases than all autos and factories in the country. i could say more but i am out of room. more next time. now if you will excuse me I need to go outside and run my car, breathe heavily, and exhale as much CO2 into the air as possible. it is cold as you know what right now where i live and i am freezing. When is that next ice age coming? Hopefully not too soon. It is alread way to cold around where i live.

  2. quentinp
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Amazing that fred1 is so far behind in the denialist dogma that he is still quoting “urban heat islands”. There are much more nuanced and up to date ways of denying or subverting the scientific evidence! He should find them, as his ever-diminishing band of co-denialists acknowledged the ‘urban heat island’ effect had been accounted for a long time ago.

    Meanwhile – on the subject of the post: One question I have – how much does the ‘quality’ of the initial bill matter? I like the idea of quickly setting a framework, and of establishing precedent (cap and trade, for example) especially if it can and will be updated in the future. I would be concerned if we went all out and, to use an analogy, established a CAFE-like standard that was too low and we didn’t get a chance to adjust it for another 20 years. In this case if another year’s wait would allow us to set a CAFE-like type standard that was appropriate then maybe that would be preferable.

    Personally I think the whole thing should be science-based anyway (what else – it’s a problem with nature, so nature has to tell us if we’re fixing it or not). So if we set a cap on total national emissions in the context of a global CO2 ppm goal then we set either a tax or a cap accordingly and let the market work out the details of the best way to comply. Then as the science continues to come in the structure is in place, and all that needs to change is the degree of incentive / amount of cut.

    So, if the bill is passed this year will it be too late to fix it later if (when) we find it isn’t ideal?


  3. Posted January 29, 2008 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    We’re addressing this very question in tomorrow’s post. A version of this is already up on Grist, here:


  4. Posted February 5, 2008 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    Denialist? Who is the real denialist?
    How is it that CO2 increases AFTER the climate temp increases in the ice samples? (more and more samples show this).

    Do you REALLY think we are going to affect the natural climate variation???

    Do you REALLY think we can accurately measure average GLOBAL temperature??? THe earth is much larger than you think. You would need 100s of thousands of sensors, and that’s just for air. How about water? What about underwater volcanoes heating the water? What about the water temp affecting the air temp? On and on and on. This variation has to be far more than the fractional degree increase that man would cause, so the changes we see are from that, not man. Man’s influence is not noticable in my opinion. New Zealand Climage Science has some good info also to help really settle the science. Please see climatescience.org.nz
    Is it any different than “scientists” telling us for so long that polyunsaturated fats are so good for us, then finding that it is in fact not good because of free radicals and too much omega 6, causing inflammation? A hypothesis that was a bit premature, driven by commercial interests to sell corn oil etc. Same for man made global warming- big bucks involved. You folks are their pawns. Wake up.

  5. blueclip
    Posted February 10, 2008 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    People, really? Every time I see people trying to deny that what’s going on today is normal really makes me wonder: in what part of the world do they live? When I’m sitting in my car, at 5PM, commuting back home and stuck in traffic, seeing all these cars spewing their toxic emissions, is it normal? Okay. Here’s a little experiment for these “denialists”: what would happen to you if you decide to spend only 30 seconds placing your nose really close to the tail pipe of your car? Try it for 30 seconds for 6 months. Do you think it’ll make you sick or finally clear your lungs? Well, that’s the issue here… we’re not sticking our noses to our cars’ tail pipes, nature is. Now multiply that times millions of tail pipes running not 30 seconds but for hours, and think of the repercussions. We need to wake up!

  6. Posted February 12, 2008 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    You want to know how global temperature is measured. We just did a blog post on it:


  7. justme
    Posted May 29, 2008 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Sooo, I suppose there is a global warming explanation for the fact that the ship is still stuck in the ice after 9 days, when they went to check out the effects of warming on the glacier?

    All a global warming bill will do at any time, now or later, is serve to keep us as citizens at a disadvantage to those in power. So those who are in power and want to keep the rest of us there keep spouting their nonsense. And those of us who listen and really think that they have anything but money and power behind their push for passing bills and convincing us through fear, that there is actually such a thing, aren’t as smart as I think we are.

    And what about the thousands of scientists who made their stand against such a phonomena, from a scientific stand point. You haven’t heard much about it because the media wants you to believe the rhetoric. I wonder where they fit in the money/power scheme of things…..

  8. Posted January 21, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

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