Saturday, June 27, 2009

A thought on the Waxman-Markey climate bill

Yesterday, the US Congress narrowly passed a bill to control greenhouse gas emissions. The Waxman-Markey bill will install a cap and trade system, set a renewable portfolio standard and pay for a number of other related, and unrelated, programs and pork. If it can make it through the Senate, the bill we become law.

Like every piece of legislation passing though the congressional treatment plant, Waxman-Markey was heavily diluted over the past few months. The pundits, NGOs and lobby groups have argued over the merits of passing a weakened cap-and-trade system which will set a low carbon price and give away the majority of the permits.

The pro argument: It's far better than what we have, which is nothing.

The con argument: It's not even close to what we need.

They're both right. We -- I write "we" deliberately because US greenhouse gas emissions affect the entire planet, US decisions and policy sets a precedent for the world, and, as a Canadian, my own government will remain paralysed without US action. We need this bill and we need to be having this argument. We need political "realists" that see this bill as an accomplishment. And we need "purists", scientists, activists, etc., shouting that the bill won't avoid the dangerous impacts of climate change. If the commentators were all "realist", the bill would be even weaker. If they were all "purists", a climate change bill would not pass until water was flooding the Capitol Building.


Richard Pauli said...

Thermodynamics trumps Congressional hubris.

Further changes to our destabilizing climate will follow laws of physics not Congress.

Simon D said...

The problem may be that few in Congress or the Canadian House of Commons know basic scientific concepts like the laws of thermodynamics