Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 16, 2009

READJUSTING EXPECTATIONS FOR COPENHAGEN.... Several months ago, there was an ambitious vision of what might happen in combating climate change this year. Congress would act on the White House's calls for a cap-and-trade bill, and administration officials would then go to Copenhagen in December to negotiate a new international agreement.

Neither, we now know, is going to happen. President Obama, at an appearance in Singapore over the weekend, conceded that a comprehensive, international deal is simply out of reach this year. The White House will, however, continue to push for incremental progress, including a more modest interim agreement at Copenhagen this year, and a commitment to renew the next stage of efforts next year.

So, it's a dejecting setback? Not necessarily. Expectations for Copenhagen had already been scaled back considerably, and Joe Romm went so far as to suggest the shift might actually be a positive development.

The new plan for Copenhagen makes the prospects for a successful international deal far more likely -- and at the same time increases the chance for Senate passage of the bipartisan climate and clean energy bill that Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen Lieberman (I-CT) are negotiating with the White House. [...]

Indeed, had leaders gone into Copenhagen without this recognition of the obvious and let the whole effort collapse under the weight of unrealistic expectations, that would have been all-but-fatal to the domestic bipartisan climate bill.

Now it will be obvious when the Senate takes up the bill up in the winter that the rest of the world is prepared to act -- that every major country in the world has come to the table with serious targets and/or serious commitments to change their greenhouse gas emissions trajectories. Every country but ours, that is.

The few key swing Senators will understand that they are the only ones who stand in the way of strong US leadership in the vital job-creating clean energy industries and stand in the way of this crucial opportunity the world now has to preserve a livable climate through an international deal. Their role in history will be defined by this one vote. And, yes, I do think that matters to people like Dick Lugar (R-IN) and perhaps even John McCain (R-AZ).

I'm not quite as confident as Romm when it comes to pressure on GOP lawmakers. As Brad Plumer put it, "It'll also be interesting to see if a semi-agreement in Copenhagen puts any pressure on lawmakers here in the United States to pass a climate bill. If it's clear that every other country in the world is prepared to take serious steps to cut emissions, and that the U.S. Senate is the major hold-up, does that weigh on individual senators at all? I'm sort of skeptical."

As am I. Republicans seem entirely unfazed when told, "There's a health care crisis, and the entire country is waiting for you to be responsible and do your duty." These same lawmakers will soon be told, "There's a climate crisis, and the entire world is waiting for you to take your obligations seriously." Will they find this compelling? I suppose time will tell.

That said, by moving towards a two-step process, the White House will have some additional time to work on a Senate that seems increasingly unable to meet the challenges of the day.

Steve Benen 4:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (11)

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Obama was told by the Chinese STFU about climate change legislation right now...we are still building coal plants to the tune of 1/wk. Pay your debt to us and we'll deal with it then.

Posted by: bjobotts on November 16, 2009 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

The rest of the world will only get the U.S. Congress to deal with climate change at the point of a gun. Or, more likely, by threatening to bankrupt us, which it could do quite easily.

Posted by: JMG on November 16, 2009 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

I think Congressional Republicans are far more worried about Club for Growth-sponsored right-wing primary challenges than they are about world opinion, and I think so-called "centrist" Democrats are far more concerned about losing their corporate contributors than they about world opinion.

Posted by: beckya57 on November 16, 2009 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

...and at the same time increases the chance for Senate passage of the bipartisan climate and clean energy bill that Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen Lieberman (I-CT) are negotiating with the White House...

It's good to see the representatives of the left, right, and a-hole contingent in Congress work together on something.

Posted by: howie on November 16, 2009 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

I'm skeptical as well, but there does seem to be an emerging recognition amongst GOP senators that the Senate will lose its institutional power if it is unable to accomplish anything. Reformers will design changes around the congressional swampland and political power will flow to the courts and the executive branch. The GOP is dooming itself to irrelevancy if it is too successful in blocking everything legislatively. The world, and the work of government, continues to march ahead.

In order to stay relevant, the Senate needs to be a place where compromises are reached and legislation is passed. At the current time, the members of the GOP are mired in obstructionism. These days of obstruction will not last forever. Look for a few lonely GOP senators to break the logjam in the coming months.

Posted by: danimal on November 16, 2009 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Climate crisis! What Climate crisis?

While I will not argue against the scientific evidence that shows an impending global climate crisis, I say SO WHAT!

Why do you think I should give a crap about any damn crisis? Even if the worst case scenario happens and human population ceases to exist on this planet, why should I care? That won't happen until long after I am dead.

I keep reminding you morons that we real republicans have one of 2 creeds:

Creed 1) Our religious tools are awaiting 'The End of Times' and will willingly follow whatever path our wealthy, corporate interests point to.

Creed 2) The bad part of the devolution of our planet due to global climate change will not take place for 100+ years. That is beyond the lifetimes of myself and my children and who gives a damn about beyond that.

So I leave you with a repeat of my two favorate republican mottos:

- More is never enough.
- I've got mine, fuck you.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on November 16, 2009 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

I am beginning to believe the rest of the world will need to invade and conquer the US for anything to change.

Posted by: MNPundit on November 16, 2009 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

i work on climate issues with the UN Development Programme, and it's been clear for some time now that nothing was going to happen (nothing legally binding, anyway) at copenhagen. that's too bad, as the danes paid a ton of $$ to leapfrog other conference holders to host what they thought was going to the be the successor to the kyoto protocol (and therefore have their name on the most significant piece of international environmental law in history)

also, i don't really think you can call anything that china has done in terms of copenhagen "serious targets or commitments". their emissions will continue to climb (they have 600 million plus rural poor, half of which will be moving into urban centers in the next couple of decades) even if they can get emissions per capita to fall.

if there is to be any deal on climate, i am afraid the US is going to have to (gasp! shock!) lead the way on this, and have BRIC follow.

Posted by: ahoy polloi on November 16, 2009 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats have been operating in a vacuum. What could actually happen in other nations and is not happening in the US is a huge increase in investment in technologies that might help on this issue. What is happening in the US is progressives spending valuable capital on a cap and trade plan that is both insufficient to the task and costly in popular support. But Steve, keep listening to Joe Romm. Joe Romm: leading us all down a primrose path to an insufficient and unpopular solution. God save us from our liberal elites and their echo chamber.

Posted by: Tom Riley on November 17, 2009 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

beckya57 said: I think so-called "centrist" Democrats are far more concerned about losing their corporate contributors than they about world opinion.

And there's the key. I expect Senate Republicans (with the occasional possible exception of a Snowe or Collins, and in this case a Graham cracker) to be completely and totally committed to blocking pretty much any reasonable solution to any real-world problem.

The real target of any efforts at persuasion are 'centrist' Democrats, who I've been calling the 'Business Dog' faction of the party. (There's nothing particularly Blue about being owned by corporate interests.) It's hard to be particularly optimistic.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on November 17, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Good Day. Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it. Help me! I can not find sites on the: Cosmetic tooth whitening. I found only this - free tooth whitening. Tooth whitening, less yellow parts, or drinks treated for coarser misconception, may brush cylinder or describes from material or sable strips and people. While the whitening teeth could have a due run, there is one that is internal and sumptuous for our kind, it is attached as lactobacillus acidophilus and it have been around us for conscious ozone, but is allegedly out achieved by skeptical studies, tooth whitening. With best wishes :-), Thyra from Somalia.

Posted by: Thyra on March 16, 2010 at 3:50 AM | PERMALINK



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