With US presidential primaries nearly over, climate policy has reached the tipping point. All three of the strongest-polling US presidential candidates - McCain (R), Obama (D), and Clinton (D) - each have substantial climate platforms; and, Obama has just thrown the climate gauntlet for the other two to pick up.
U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama promised on Friday to start working on an international pact to reduce global warming if he becomes the Democratic nominee, touting his plan to reduce U.S. emissions as stronger than that of Republican front-runner John McCain.What makes Obama's climate challenge interesting are two items. One is that he's been talking with Al - a good sign for sure.
"I've been in conversations with former Vice President (Al) Gore repeatedly, and his recommendation, which I think is sound, is that you can't wait until you are sworn into office to get started," Obama told a news conference in Seattle.
"I think we need to start reaching out to other countries ahead of time, not because I'm presumptuous, but because there's such a sense of urgency about this."
The other is that he's willing to differentiate in terms of macroeconomic theory:
Obama, Clinton, and McCain all support building a so-called "cap and trade" system that would issue big polluters such as oil companies and power producers permits to emit carbon dioxide (CO2), the main gas blamed for global warming.Should the more distant polling Republican Governor Huckabee endorse, or pair up with, McCain, he would dilute McCain's climate mojo, as he is seemingly stuck in your basic drill in ANWR time warp.
Under such a system, companies that exceed their CO2 limits must buy more permits to pollute, while those that come in beneath their limits may sell the permits on a market.
Obama said his plan was superior to McCain's because it required companies to buy all of those permits up front -- a process known as auctioning.
"I've been very specific about proposing 100 percent auctioning, which makes an enormous difference in terms of how effective it's going to be," Obama said.
Nuclear power and the US Supreme Court may well become climate debate wild cards which differentiate these candidates. Why ever? Because as this seminal Salon published op. ed piece by Joe Romm points out, the McCain-Lieberman climate bill offers billions in direct taxpayer subsidies to the nuclear power industry. Check out Romm's SCOTUS reasoning for yourself: too partisan for us to dwell on.
The only technological solution to global warming that McCain consistently advocates is nuclear power. In his signature environmental legislation, the 2007 Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act, written with Joe Lieberman, McCain wants to devote a remarkable $3.7 billion in federal subsidies to nuclear power plants. According to an analysis by U.S. PIRG, a federation of public interest groups, the money would go for "engineering and design costs, loans and loan guarantees for building three new plants, and direct financial awards for new projects."
Yet when Grist asked McCain, "What's your position on subsidies for green technologies like wind and solar?" he said:
"I'm not one who believes that we need to subsidize things. The wind industry is doing fine, the solar industry is doing fine. In the '70s, we gave too many subsidies and too much help, and we had substandard products sold to the American people, which then made them disenchanted with solar for a long time."
Yet, the presidential debates could send a message from the US that nuclear power is what the world needs more of. And Kim Jong Il will be listening. Clean coal - no longer receiving Federal subsidies in the form of FutureGen - is second best. Leaders of North Korea, Iran, and of other developing nations will want the good stuff.
Framing analogy:- A similar thing happened as a result of the use of Agent Orange and Napalm in Vietnam, and use of crowd control gases on US citizens during the Vietnam War years. Public consciousness of chemical risks accelerated into a state of widespread "chemophobia" that was far beyond what Rachel Carson and photos of broken raptor eggs could have been able to accomplish alone.