“We have been too kind to those people who are destroying the planet ~ inexcusably, unforgivably, insanely kind.”
— Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame
As the bell rang in the U.S. House of Representatives, announcing the 219-212 vote for passage of the Waxman-Markey climate bill, also known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), the skies over Washington, DC ripped loose with a mighty storm.
Visibility was cut to a couple of feet as a torrential down pour was accompanied by hail that raised a ruckus so loud inside the car that conversation was impossible. Tourists with inadequate umbrellas were left with skin stinging from the pelting. There were small waves cresting on the Potomac River and flash flooding. Local areas got several inches of rain in less than an hour. Large trees bowed, split and littered the streets.
At least 2 people in the Washington, DC region died from the storm. Forty-year-old, supermom Kelly Murray of Chevy Chase, Maryland and her 7-year-old daughter Sloane, died when a fallen tree branch crushed them in their mini-van on Connecticut Avenue. Murray leaves a husband and 4 daughters: Maeve, Jillian, Quinn and Meghan.
With the evidence of catastrophic climate change coming more clearly into daily focus, President Obama dared to say, “We’re not going to get there in one fell swoop.” Mother Nature seemed to declare, “I beg to differ, Waxman-Markey, simply will not do.”
“Vital authority for the EPA is stripped, but 2 billion additional tons of pollution are authorized every year, forever. Residential consumer protection incredibly is entrusted to the mercy of utility companies. Exempting a hundred new coal plants and paying billions to Old King Coal leaves him, indeed, a very merry old soul. This bill is 85% different from what President Obama proposed months ago,” said Brent Blackwelter, President of Friends of the Earth, one of the groups opposed to the House version of the bill.
Even The Washington Post, which has grown increasingly conservative, said in an editorial, “Congress should deliver a bill to Mr. Obama this year. But given that congressional action could set a template for years or decades, we think it’s too soon to settle for something that falls so far short of ideal,” as the House version of the bill does.
Environmental and energy advocate, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) was in the minority voting against the bill. He and, “It won’t address the problem. In fact, it might make the problem worse.
It certainly seems as if the lights may be on, powered by dirty coal, but there is nobody home in the U.S. House of Representatives. Did they miss the report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1990 when they said we must cut greenhouse gas emissions 60-80% immediately? Were they unconscious when in 2001, the IPCC said that the problem was 50% worse than originally predicted?
Has Congress missed the rapidly receding Arctic ice? Did it not register with them when Katie Walters reported in Science Magazine that methane, the greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, was bubbling out of the arctic, taking humanity into the dreaded phase, where climate change may be beyond human control?
Were U.S. House members on recess when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently said, “The most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth’s climate will get in this century shows that without rapid and massive action, the problem will be about twice as severe as previously estimated six years ago – and could be even worse than that.”
By the time that we should have atmospheric greenhouse gases under control, The Breakthrough Initiative said of the ACES bill: “If fully utilized, the emissions ‘offset’ provisions in the [bill] would allow continued business as usual, growth in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions until 2030, leading one to wonder: where’s the cap in the ‘cap’ and trade?”
Let’s take a lesson from the failed experiment with cap and trade in Europe. They started with a commendable goal: to cut greenhouse gases by making companies pay for each ton of CO2 they emitted. But that plan, let loose lobbying pandemonium that led politicians to give favors to industries, blunting the environmental mission, just as Waxman-Markey will do, in its current form.
Four years later, the European system has so far produced no benefit to the climate – but has generated a multibillion-dollar bonanza for some of Europe’s biggest polluters. The New York Times reports that a German power company received $6.4 billion in the first 3 years of the system and that the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by plants and factories, has not fallen in Europe – instead it has risen an average of about half a percent in 2006 and ’07.
Hope is fleeting that the U.S. Senate will bring better sense to bear on climate legislation than the U.S. House, but if they do not, humanity may be screwed. With a filibuster-proof, Democratic majority including the recently affirmed, Al Franken (D-MN), fixing Waxman-Markey ultimately rests with one person — Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) of Connecticut – who was the lead sponsor of an even weaker bill in 2003.
At a time when serious leadership is needed to cut greenhouse gases 80% below 1990 levels by 2025, the inadequate greenhouse gas cap in Waxman-Markey cuts greenhouse gas emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% by 2050. A plan for achieving meaningful cuts in greenhouse gases is easily stated: Get off the fossil fuel economy and transition to a 100% clean, renewable, non-nuclear energy economy within 10 years. Stop all logging, mining, grazing and drilling. America, this is your climate bill.
KARYN STRICKLER is a political scientist, grassroots organizer and writer. She is a senior fellow with the Center for New Politics and Policy. Karyn is the producer and host of Climate Challenge on MMCTV. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .