The Climate Change Mess
Over lunch with The Post editorial board Wednesday, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said that, when it comes to climate change, "we can't complain about the ambition of this administration," but that secretary of state Hillary Clinton has been "fairly candid with us about what's happening in the Senate."
That is, not much.
Bildt is among the diplomats hoping that the U.S. Congress will get something passed before December, when the Copenhagen climate-change conference convenes, so that U.S. negotiators can sign onto an agreement on emission-reduction targets. But the working draft unveiled Wednesday by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and John Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, didn't suggest that a near-term breakthrough is likely.
One problem, as a Post editorial points out: The draft leaves some of the most critical, pressure-group-attracting details to the Finance Committee -- which is tied up right now with a little bill about health care. Sensing difficulties, the sponsors are eschewing the term "cap-and-trade," attempting to rebrand the effort in all sorts of vaguely misleading ways. "This is a security bill," Kerry insisted Wednesday. "This is not a cap-and-trade bill, it's a pollution reduction bill," Kerry said last week.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has publicly discussed the possibility that the climate change bill could be pushed off until next year. A floor battle and what could be a bloody conference with the House to reconcile differing versions still loom. And the politics of climate change are fraught in a body that overrepresents areas of the country that have resisted climate-change legislation, and are likely to make it as mediocre as the House-passed version, or worse.
Meanwhile, and despite George Will's liberal use of scare quotes, the greenhouse gases keep on pumping. And the high associated risks -- not the asserted certainties of disaster against which Will, in search of straw men, argues, but still scary -- are all the more worrisome.
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