Experts Dish on the Death of the Climate Bill


Photo via Foreign Policy

I've already done my fair share of helping to direct the blame at those who helped kill the climate bill (these 7 were responsible, by my reckoning). But I'm certainly not the only one weighing in on the sad squandering of America's best opportunity to reform our archaic, fossil fuel-reliant energy policy. Plenty of other folks are up in arms -- and some are don't care much at all. Here's what the 'experts' are saying: These excerpts are from the Foreign Policy roundup of expert opinion on the climate bill's demise. Here, for example, is Michael A. Levi from the council of Foreign Relations: "The U.S. economy killed the climate bill. Its main accomplices were congressional Republican obstructionism, an anemic White House effort, and misplaced reliance on industry and environmental interest groups to deliver votes."

That's probably about accurate. The national mood would have been much more receptive to energy reform had the economy recovered further and the unemployment rate fallen. That's of course no excuse for inaction, but it probably played a key role in allowing anti-climate action Republicans to exploit the public's general sense of insecurity and its feeling of the financial squeeze to scare Dems into keeping the bill at arms length.

Before going on to be wrong about just about everything else, the Nixon Center's Paul Saunders says this:

Who killed the climate-change bill? Lots of people. At a tactical level, Senate Republicans, with help from coal-state Senate Democrats. At a strategic level, President Barack Obama, who decided to make health-care reform his No. 1 priority. At the most fundamental level, however, the American people killed the bill.
That's probably pretty correct, but for a different reason than Saunders goes on to cite. He says that Americans never truly backed climate or energy reform because they weren't will to commit the extra postage stamp or so in energy costs a month. He's wrong about that -- poll after poll showed the majority of Americans were willing to do exactly that, often at presumably higher costs. But he's right that the American people never rallied behind climate policy -- but for that, I blame a media that's impotent on the issue, not their cheapness.

Finally, the inestimable Bill McKibben weighs in with an interesting perspective:

This was never going to be an easy task. Dealing seriously with climate change means damaging the business model of the most profitable business the world has ever seen -- fossil fuel -- as well as disrupting the lives of every citizen to one degree or another.

Given that, we in the environmental community have made a mistake over the years in assuming that it would take an essentially "inside game" to win. That is, most of the big groups focused most of their efforts inside the Beltway, with expert lobbying of all kinds. The theory, I think, was that the simple fact that scientists explained we faced the worst problem ever, and that economists explained that we could deal with it, would be enough to win that action. But it wasn't.

He thinks more emphasis needs to be put on developing a grass roots movement for climate action, engaging the public more on a straightforward level.

Anyone else see a theme developing here?

More on the Death of the Climate Bill
It's Official: The Climate Bill is Dead
The 7 Things That Killed the Climate Bill

Tags: Congress | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Solutions | United States

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