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All Aboard the Climate Change Express

For the latest sign of the political resonance of the global warming issue, check out the list of cosponsors that Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) have lined up for their bill to combat greenhouse gasses.

All four Senate Democrats seeking the 2008 presidential nomination are signed on as supporters. Three of the Democrats signed on within the last week to what Sanders and Boxer are promoting as "gold standard" legislation -- a plan to slash carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent from their 1990 levels by 2050.

A quick search of the Library of Congress's Thomas site shows that the Democratic frontrunners Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) signed on to support the bill on the exact same day -- last Thursday.

Aides to Sanders and Boxer, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, declined to say which frontrunner signed up first that day or whether it was an actual tie.

If political points are awarded for quickest reaction to an issue that the liberal base is increasingly concerned about, then Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) is the hands down winner of the '08 field. Dodd signed on with Sanders and Boxer two weeks after they officially unveiled their bill in mid-January.

It took Clinton and Obama another three-and-a-half months to come aboard the Sanders-Boxer express, despite many months on the trail spent talking about the issue and months of hype surrounding former Vice President Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth."

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) joined a few more senators this week, bringing the total number of Senate Democrats supporting the bill to 17. That's a long way from 51 votes for a majority or the 60 votes they would need to overcome a likely filibuster from Republicans staunchly opposed to legislation largely derided by conservatives as anti-business.

As Steven Mufson reported in today's Post, Obama has his own plan, which would cut carbon dioxide emissions by improving fuel efficiency in cars. (Nevermind, as Mufson noted, that some greens aren't happy with Obama's support for "coal-to-liquids technology.")

Beyond the popularity of Gore's movie (and continued talk of a potential Gore campaign), global warming has become a major issue among the Democratic field. Even Republicans like Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) have embraced the issue.

(The text above has been corrected to reflect the fact that Sen. Dodd cosponsored the Boxer-Sanders legislation two weeks after the bill was first introduced.)

By Paul Kane  |  May 8, 2007; 7:15 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , Senate  
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It's great that the Democrats are drawing so much more support than the Republicans. This really supports the notion that the Democrats are taking on issues that really matter to the American people. From health care to poverty and global warming, these issues take precedence over an ever-inflating military budget that seems to bring no resolve for any country involved.

The Borgen Project states that just $19 billion annually can end starvation and $23 billon annually can reverse the spread of Malaria and AIDS. With these issues being so easily addressed, it is no wonder that a war-touting political group that doesn't believe in humanitarianism isn't doing well in the polls or with the American people.

Posted by: elle c | May 8, 2007 7:59 PM | Report abuse

For now, alarmists are getting a free ride on the climate change express, but once the electorate is forced to take a serious look at this proposed legislation, its costs, and the actual scientific evidence regarding global warming, this issue may not be such a slam dunk. I, for one, am willing to support any politician brave enough to cast doubt in an intelligent fashion (there's the rub) on the alarmist scenarios of climate change.

Posted by: Frank Lee | May 9, 2007 2:07 AM | Report abuse

Frank Lee, there are no "alarmist scenarios" with regard to climate change. No, we don't know exactly how it will play out, but the overwhelming majority of respected scientists the world over are convinced that there will be serious repercussions within our lifetime. Faced with that, a refusal to act because we are unable / unwilling to change our lifestyle, no matter the consequences for not doing so, will label us correctly as the laziest, stupidest, and most irresponsible generation of humans - more specifically, 'of Americans' - yet to burden our poor overworked planet. Wake the f**k up and smell the coffee.

Posted by: meuphys | May 9, 2007 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Earth has experienced many different climates. 30 million years ago during the eocine period carbon dioxide levels were hundreds of times greater than todays levels-earth was much warmer overall and reportedly the environment was very pleasant-

Posted by: derf | May 9, 2007 8:02 AM | Report abuse

No chance that the sun is doing the global warming....and is it of no relevance that other planets are getting warmer too? Man made Global Warming is nothing but a religion for the Godless. I think its a noble cause but right now its way too political.

Posted by: Andy | May 9, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Considering there are approximately 301 million people living in the United States. Comparatively, there's a minor number of big corporations releasing life threatening toxins into our air and waterways.

Why do we allow them to bribe policy makers with campaign contributions, albeit donated through family members to disguise their true identities? Why do we allow these policy makers to put corporate welfare over human welfare?

Human health should come before profits and the bottom line politics. Corporations can not exist without workers, and workers can't exist without good health. Neither can exist without a healthy planet, the good Lord gave us, to keep us all healthy.

Posted by: Gab | May 9, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Look around you. How many things do you see that were made through the use of electricity? How many things are currently using electricity? To produce the necessary useful energy to make and operate all these things, there has to be an even greater amount of energy wasted in the exaust of the process that created them. Given enough time and a large enough scale, the effects of that exaust will be felt. Agreed?

Posted by: Ed | May 9, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse




Posted by: EARTH HAS A FEVER, LOL | May 9, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes the Washington media confuses 'the Democrats' with the country as a whole. Past experience should have educated DC journalists that what excites the Democratic base is not a very good guide to the voting priorities of the electorate. As with other environmental issues, as with gay rights, abortion rights, affirmative action, etc., I doubt if a single GOP lawmaker will lose his or her job in 2008 because of skepticism toward the notion, heavily promoted by politicians, that politicians can control the climate by passing laws, and thus save the world if only they are given even more control over production and consumption by us masses.

Posted by: Mark Richard | May 9, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Richard, Frank Luntz himself has said that the environment is the one issue where Republicans are the weakest and most vulnerable. Polls consistently show that upwards of 70% of the electorate share the environmental values of "the Democrats," and that your Republicans are out of step with the country. Luckily for you, our complacent media hasn't let the country in on your party's shocking disregard for the environment.

Posted by: Captain Obvious | May 9, 2007 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I will vote against anyone that puts artificial taxes on me to support such a flawed theory (that Global temperature change is caused by people).

The climate of the planet is always in flux, it is a complex system and that is what complex systems do.

Changing my standard of living with artificial taxes will not change the natural changes that happen to the earth.

We are the same temperature now as 1000 years ago, I'm fine with that.

Posted by: bacar62 | May 10, 2007 9:25 AM | Report abuse

bacar62: Luckily for the future of your children and everybody else's, you're about to be outvoted on this. The only real question now is what type of cap-and-trade system will be put in place. But everybody knows the legislation is coming.

Posted by: Captain Obvious | May 10, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse


Well that is the beauty of our system of government. As soon as energy bills go up 30% and people begin to understand how flawed the models of Global Warming are, the politicians will remove the artificial taxes or be voted out.

The dishonest scare tactics swirling around the current natural warming of the planet is unbelievable.

Posted by: bacar62 | May 10, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I know this is slightly off topic, but those BP commercials about alternates to oil are some of the dumbest commercials ever put on TV? (Actually the people in them have to be some of the dumbest American BP could find).

The notion of some governmental edict that oil companies are the only businesses that can be in the energy field is ridiculous. The free market allows anyone to get in the energy business. If oil companies want to just stay in the 'oil business', that is fine and the idea they 'have' to come up with alternative fuels is ridiculous.

To me it is a little like in the late 1800's telling the rail roads that they had to develop another form of transportation for the country and start building road and automobiles. What a dumb notion, lets just let the free market work. It will do just fine without the need for artificial barriers or enticements. With no artificial constraints, money flows were it should.

Posted by: bacar62 | May 10, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

It's not surprising that those who doubt the reality of claimate change do not offer substance in their argument. There simply isn't any. From an economic and global political perspective if America fails to take the lead someone else surely will, and we will relinquish our leadership role. Our national interest requires our leadership.

Posted by: Harlock | May 10, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Interesting article in the German paper Spiegel about the lack of objectivity in the Global Warming argument.,1518,480766,00.html

Posted by: cms | May 10, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure that anyone debates whether the planet is warming, because it's always either warming or cooling. Look at the geological and historical record verify this.

Concerning the temperature of the earth, from available data, it is approximately the same temperature as 1000 years ago and has been warming every since the last mini-ice age 300 years ago.

It is not an issue that the main effect (modeling term) of CO2 to the planet would be one of warming. The problem is in its interactions with the other factors that also affect the climate of the planet. When modeling complex systems, it is not sufficient to capture one factor, test it in isolation and then expect it to accurately predict the behavior of a complex system to perturbations of that factor. Factors are some times statistically significant to a model but in the real world not practically significant. To elaborate, if a factor like CO2 is statistically significant but only explains 2% of the change noted in a system, before you proclaim your model useful, make sure you understand and can predict what causes the other 98% change to a system (though typically predicting 85%+ is pretty good). Messaging a model long enough to predict input data does not mean it is now a good model and will accurately predict future events. We know the sun and water vapor, and their complex interactions are the biggest factors driving climate change. These however are POORLY accounted for in the global models I've reviewed! So when some say CO2 emissions will cause an XX increase in global temperature, they really don't know and are guessing. Depending on how CO2 interacts with the major climate factors, increases in CO2 emissions could just as easily lower temperatures in the long run as increase them.

Global warming has become its own political movement. While there is a lot of research and contribution to the Global Warming religion of CO2 causation, its models and belief system are flawed and unappealing to people that want to really study and understand it. Changing my life for questionable models and someone else's belief system is not appealing to me.

Blame all you want on humanity. I believe we should be a steward of the environment and also enjoying life ourselves. We should change and adapt to the ever changing planet, just please don't force this new religion on everyone.

Posted by: bacar62 | May 10, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Well, let's review recent history. Twenty five years ago we were being told by a similarly frightened group that the globe was getting colder and that we were all going to freeze in the dark if we didn't take immediate steps to prevent it...I've even forgotten what they were...and apparently so have the proponents of that flawed theory. Should we consider that the bulk of the negligible warming that occurred in the past century occurred before 1940 and that a higher proportion of energy producing activity occurred after then? We know that temperatures on this globe were warmer 1000 years ago and much colder 500 years ago. We know that our distance from the sun is finite, but that the energy produced by the sun and absorbed by our world varies. We know that the core of the globe is molten but not exactly what its activity has on surface temperatures. We know that current weather predictions are only valid and accurate for about seven days forward. There is simply a lot we don't know that we don't know. We don't even know if a little global warming, if it is occurring, is a bad thing. What we do know is that a lot of the proponents of the global warming scare do not practice what they preach. The draconian measures they propose are to be suffered by the rest of us. To spend trillions of dollars on quite senseless, ineffective and useless measures to solve a quite likely non-problem borders on idiocy. Reminiscent of King Canute wading into the ocean and ordering the tide to halt!

Posted by: John Galt III | May 10, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

It's undeniable that we as a country have to get off of the oil habit. Clean energy does this. It also fights terror. Even you right wing wingnuts who will follow this administration no matter what happens, have to admit that we are filling the financial coffers of the Oil Producing countries and funding terrorist at the same time. Maybe you don't have long enough memories to remember that 19 of the 20 911 attackers were Saudis!! Ask yourselfs - what would really be the downside of cleaning up our CO2 act? You're so worried about increased costs - in Europe they've been paying 3 times as much as us for gas for years! How does that wreck their lives - wow, they have to drive smaller cars and have a much better mass transit system. That's terrible!! How could we live with that! So, tell me what is the downside of cleaning up our act. The real downside of doing nothing, is that your children and grandchildren will ask you - "why didn't you do anything?" You were lazy, spoiled wrotten and dumb!!

Posted by: Sam Gassel | May 10, 2007 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Well kids, we seem to be having a warming climate, it gets warmer in spring and warmer still in Summer. Duh!! I see the "very intelligent" people in the house and senate are proposing to replace incandesant lights with compact flouresent lights. Brake a florescent bulb and with the mercury content that will be $2,500 to clean up, depending on state. Some wish to see the United Nations take the lead in "Global Warming" fight, cost $3,300-$3,500 in additional taxes to the U.N. and we know how they can turn a profit from things, oil for food ring a bell. Should we try to husband the planet? Yes! The new named tropical storm off the east coast is caused by an unusual blast of COLD air. Oh My here we go again Global Cooling, and we are going into an Ice age. Most of the Scientests are silent, they do know that fanatics will cut off their funds or drum them out of the colledges in which they teach or research, and consenus does not a law make. Newton's law only applies on a planet or in the electromagnetic zone of a planet or sun. What goes up may not necessarily come back down.
Yes Chicken Little the ice caps on Mars are melting, those darn Martians! Perhaps we are exporting some of the hot air generated by Mr. Gore to Mars, if not it must be the SUN. Quit going into a Funk children.

Posted by: h1m912009 | May 10, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse


Two issues concerning your comments.

#1: It all boils down to cost per energy unit. If oil is available from the ground for $4/unit and in the markets for $60/unit, we will not be ecumenically competitive at $100+/unit. That's basic economics. The beauty is that as oil continues to become more expensive, then economics will come into play and other forms of cost effective energy sources will begin being used. Just leave things alone and the free market will work quite nicely. Related to filling the financial coffers of oil countries, the cheapest energy sources let our economy continue to grow, switch to more expensive forms of energy, while the rest of the world continues to use oil, and the economy slows down or stops, then we don't make any money.

#2: Concerning Europe and paying 3 times as much for gas. You realize they refine gas at the same price as us. The reason gas in Europe cost 3X as much is TAXES. These TAXES pay for the wonderful mass transit system they have. I'm not sure we will be able to spread a good mass transit system to vast rural America, but I guess we could try. Lets just have an honest debate on the pro's and con's, and not make up a bogus issue (CO2 caused Global Warming) and say we have to do it!

And to your last point, actually my grandchildren will NOT ask why I didn't do anything, because Global warming will in the next 15 years go the same route as the 70's Ice Age scare.

Posted by: bacar62 | May 11, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

It's great to see a bill concerning an issue which affects us all receiving such support. I would like to see more co-sponsors for other bills as well, such as HR 1302 The Global Poverty Act. This act, if passed, would ensure that the White House create and implement a plan to meet the Millennium Goals which the US agreed to in 2000. The meeting of these goals would result in severe reduction and eventually the elimination of global poverty.

Posted by: sl88 | May 11, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

It is hopeful that so many thoughtful comments can be elicited regarding the social science of the Catastrophe AlGorithm.

Posted by: Delfin J Beltran MD | May 21, 2007 10:06 AM | Report abuse

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