photo via AP
Some climate activists are losing faith in both President Obama's ability and commitment to clean energy and battling climate change. But what if John McCain were president? Where would we be today? Not in a good place, if his rhetoric on the Senate climate bill is any measurement. McCain, once a leader on climate change, is now a roadblock even through his best buddy in the Senate and constant campaign companion, Lindsey Graham, is out front working on compromises. McCain once sponsored a cap and trade bill with Joe Lieberman but during the election campaign, seemingly to please his base, he moved away from supporting solutions and became an apologist for the business as usual crowd. Now McCain has labeled the Senate climate bill, the only game in town, as "horrendous" and is working to defeat it.
The bill would cut emissions by about 4-7 percent by 2020, relative to 1990, and up to 80 percent by 2050. Most environmentalists see these targets as too weak and a bad signal to the rest of the world. But McCain doesn't want the bill strengthened, he wants it gone.
McCain refers to the bill as "cap and tax," calls the climate legislation that passed the House in June "a 1,400-page monstrosity" and dismisses a cap-and-trade proposal included in the White House budget as "a government slush fund."
Former aides are mystified by what they see as a retreat on the issue, given McCain's long history of leadership on climate legislation. McCain and Lieberman authored their first climate bill in 2003 and reintroduced the legislation in 2005 and 2007. "The only reason we are debating climate legislation in the Senate right now is because of the leadership he showed three Congresses ago," said Tim Profeta, a former staffer for the Connecticut independent on climate issues who is now a professor at Duke University.
"I wouldn't be here on this issue without him," said Graham, a South Carolina Republican who spent much of last fall campaigning for McCain. "He's the guy that introduced me to the climate problem."
It seems that that the only way that politicians like McCain, who is rumored to be facing a tough primary challenge next year, are going to do what's right is if Obama himself makes climate legislation a priority and starts to call out the politicians and other roadblocks who stands in the way of progress. We need leadership now.
The president has spent billions of stimulus dollars on green initiatives, is moving to regulate coal plants under the Clean Air Act, and increased fuel efficiency in cars. All great moves. But the climate bill is what really matters. Debate starts soon. We know where McCain is. How about Obama?