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John Kerry's climate-change battle

As the Senate looks more closely at dealing with climate change this Earth Day, Democrats have split on how much Congress can actually do this year. On one side is Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and others behind the effort to pass a comprehensive bill -- a bill that would invest in cleaner energy but also put a price carbon. That’s critical -- despite what you might have gathered from GOP demagoguery about “cap-and-tax” bills, without a carbon price spurring private capital and ingenuity in the green-energy effort, dealing seriously with global warming will be a lot more expensive. Kerry is working with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to produce that comprehensive bill, a draft of which they will release next Monday.

On the other side are Democrats such as Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who favors taking a politically easier -- and, according to some reckoning, a more realistic -- path: passing a big energy bill that invests in cleaner energy but does not price carbon. A path that, Kerry rightly points out, would make it very difficult to pass a real climate bill later. The sweeteners that would probably be included in such an energy bill -- offshore drilling, nuclear provisions and other such things -- could not then be packaged with the less popular carbon-pricing scheme.

Going the energy-only route would be so inadequate, Kerry told me this week, that he would “probably” vote against an energy-only bill. And, he said, he would do even more than that. On the Senate floor, he would propose amendment after amendment derived from the comprehensive bill he is currently helping to draft. “It would be a very, very long process,” he said.

I hope Kerry isn’t forced to do that. If there is a way to pass sound climate legislation this year, Congress must find it. Because according to International Energy Agency, every year that America and the rest of the world fails to hit climate change head-on increases the inevitable cost of emissions abatement by half a trillion dollars -- and a lot of that, no doubt, will be money out of Americans’ pockets.

By Stephen Stromberg  | April 21, 2010; 11:00 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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Comments

I am a student in the ivy league and just last week overheard some professors debating this issue in a library (this is what prompted my Google search). I was shocked by what they said since I had never considered the topic before. They were obviously scientists because they were explaining themselves to one another in jargon and and kept referencing data. Their debate surrounded the degree of politicization in research and how you are unable to get funding unless you support certain conclusions. If you don't, you are considered 'fringe' and have less opportunity for career progression. They discussed the topic from a very pragmatic angle and didn't sound like conspiracy theorists at all. They unquestionably held the belief that whatever the realities of climate change that man's impact is negligable at worst and that this all is just a normal, cyclical fluctuation in temperature. Because of hearing this I am now able to see the political angles that weren't apparent before.

I am worried, though. What happens if it is indeed true that, as these professors suggest, there is hardly conclusive evidence and the warming doesn't stem from man's actions but based on what we believe we know we subject our energy consumption (and in no small part our sovereignty) to United Nation's oversight? It would seem like if we went down that road it would be hard to reverse course. I am hardly a conspiracy person, but it seems pretty clear that we are handing over a lot when there is a clear lack of consensus.

Widener library, by the way. ;)

Posted by: oswego_guy | April 21, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

you do realise oswego_guy that our energy consumption per capita is one of the highest in the world. Not a stat to be proud of. Conserving energy is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

As to sovereignity v United Nations oversight. We ask (or at least try) to get all other nations to comply.Good for the goose is good for the gander. Hmmm ?

Posted by: arunc1 | April 22, 2010 12:58 AM | Report abuse

arunct1, has it not ocurred to you that the US uses alot of energy because we have allot of people and we are more advanced than most nations? Our dependence on electricity is huge. Just try going without it for a week. We would be fools to make our electricity much more expensive. The fools in this administration and the dems in congress are just such fools. Man does not control the weather be it global warming or cooling. Mother Nature has been trying to tell us that for several months now. Has our government been able to stop the earthquakes and volcano eruptions? No. We need carbon dioxide so trees can make the oxygen we have to have to exist. This climate thing is a scam - just like most things the dems do. If our schools would get busy and teach science, math and history we would not fall for all these scams. Instead our government is more concerned with teaching children to be gay and coddling teachers who belong to unions! Our present government is throwing dollars down rat holes.

Posted by: annnort | April 22, 2010 6:35 AM | Report abuse

"Oswego_guy" marks a change of strategy for the denialist trolls: they will try to sound reasonable now instead of frothing at the mouth that the professors are conspiring against us. But the concern about ceding our sovereignty to "United Nations oversight" is the tell.

How can we afford NOT to fix our fossil fuel addiction? Even if climate disruption were not a threat, we still import 70% of our oil. It costs us more than a billion dollars a day. The 2008 price spike drained a trillion dollars out of our economy and sent it overseas. And don't say "drill here drill now" because we don't have the oil: we drilled it already. In a world without climate change, we will benefit from redirecting our economic activity away from fossil fuels.

Posted by: chase-truth | April 22, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

So what your saying is that the American people should just blindly trust John "Lurch" Kerry and Al"Jabba the Hut"Gore? You have got to be freaking kidding me. I think the libturds have used up their capital on health care. My advise to the kumbya singers is to start your job search now.

Posted by: elcigaro1 | April 22, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Chase-truth,

There is no 'tell' in my case. I don't have an agenda, I am just a student relating what I heard. And yes, after a quick Google search there is a ton of material online that is unbiased research. Consider the congressional questioning of Al Gore. I think it's on YouTube. It is pretty serious, people everywhere are challenging the constitutionality of this climate change legislation. Perhaps you should be more cautious and consider other angles?

Posted by: oswego_guy | April 22, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

"In a world without climate change, we will benefit from redirecting our economic activity away from fossil fuels" and redirecting it to the developing world.

Posted by: oswego_guy | April 22, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Jobs Jobs Jobs - not climate change - jobs!

Posted by: 2009frank | April 22, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Senator Kerry has lnog been an advocate of the enviornment, we should expect no less now. The current climate on capital hill is going to end up effecting the real climate if politicians continue to worry about the corporate world and not about the real world. It's agreed there is a tipping point, where no matter what we do the climate will change dramatically with great consequences, so why all the posturing in Washington. Money thats why!!
Our failure to act will mean that tipping point comes and we are a day late and a dime short. Real climate change legislation is needed. Vastly cutting back greenhouse gaes, regardless the cost. If we don't act it will only end up costing trillions in the future. Common sense but that eludes those in Washington D.C. I guess its too much to ask.

thomas mcmahon
millis ma

Posted by: tommic856 | April 22, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I personally agree that the U.S. imports way too much oil. That's why we should drill for more domestic oil in all the places the radical environmentalists have kept us from drilling, such as up the eastern and western seaboard, in the artic wildlife refuge, etc. We should also develop oil shale deposits in the west and most definitely build more nuclear power plants. We should also develop clean coal technology, since the U.S. has massive coal reserves. With all that we could probably reduce our dependence on foreign oil to just about 0. We should also forget the fantasy that wind power will ever replace a significant portion of our energy needs. It's unreliable, expensive, causes noise pollution, causes a huge NIMBY reaction, is detremental to wildlife (especially birds and bats), uses vast swaths of land to generate the same amount of power as a conventional gas or coal power which have a fraction of the foot print and payback of energy produced from a wind turbine versus the energy consumed to make a wind turbine takes a long time.

We should continue to support research into alternate fuels and alternate means of power generation like cold fusion, bio fuels, hydrogen fueld cells etc. but we have to realize that our society right now is carbon based and that isn't going to change for a long while. The heavy hand of government fiat should not be involved. That's why we live in a free market society. We should do more to make ourselves more energy efficient but shouldn't be ashamed of the energy consumption that powers our advanced society.

Posted by: RobT1 | April 22, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

There are certainly a lot of websites out there posting so-called research into climate science. When you track down their references however, the arguments do not hold up. For oswego_guy and anyone else who wants to do a little fact-based research try http://www.skepticalscience.com/. This is an excellent reference that deals honestly with the issue.

Posted by: len13 | April 22, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Nothing brings out incoherence like a discussion of global warming. Re-hashing the old discredited arguments over and over. How boring. "I'm an Ivy league student and I overheard some professors talking..." zzzzzzz.

Among the scientific community, there is no debate any longer. Yes, you can still find physicians and scientists that will tell you that cigarette smoking does not cause lung cancer and that CFCs have no impact on the ozone layer. We ignore them now.

Can mankind alter the planet? Hmmmm, let's see: We destroy rainforest each year equivalent to the size of Switzerland. There is now an 'island' of floating plastic in the Pacific Ocean gyre that has grown to ...are you ready?.... twice the size of Texas. According to the fossil record, we're now losing species at 1,000 times the normal rate. Over the last 650,000 years, CO2 never got above 300ppm during any interglacial period. We're now at 390 and climbing 2ppm EVERY YEAR.

I, for one, am sick of listening to deniers. Their argument? "Keep electricity cheap!"

What nonsense. They apparently don't understand how this works. Electricity is now a 2-way street. There are dozens of emerging technologies that will allow people to SELL BACK during peak-price periods. Town after town in Europe now owns their own distributed generation capacity and has a surplus... IE, the free market unleashed innovation and investment along with efficiency. Jesus, you whiners out there have less faith in free markets than the Europeans. Small wonder that a tiny country like Denmark now boasts the largest wind turbine manufacturing company in the world and is well on its way to importing NO OIL.

As for Americans, we're less than 5 % of the population yet we consume 25% of the world's daily oil production. We are dangerously dependent on a commodity that most of us don't understand. Our production peaked at 10.7M bbl/day in December of 1970 as predicted by M. King Hubbert. This was BEFORE Prudhoe Bay came online. Even with the addition of Prudhoe at 2M bbl/day, we never got back above 10.7 as the decline rates in all the other fields were so fast. We're now down to about 6M bbl/day. The North Sea peaked in 1999, Russia recently peaked. Mexico has peaked. Indonesia, Nigeria, Venezuela and on and on. Get it? So what happens when Saudi Arabia peaks?

Posted by: sdavis3398 | April 22, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

And a good friend of mine teaches in earth and planetary sciences and, after a couple of drinks, will rage about the ridiculousness of climate change denial in the public discourse. Also, Oswego, you should go to Lamont; the chairs are more comfortable.

Posted by: jeffwacker | April 22, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I make no claim to know anything about the science regarding climate change or global warming. What I do know is insurance. If want to assess the risk of virtually anything in this world you should ask people who assess risk and place a price tag on it. Insurance companies are amongst the oldest and largest companies in the world. According to studies done within the last few years all the major reinsurance companies have reached the following conclusions.
1. Prior models of catastrophic risk exposure have become inadequate both to frequency and severity of extreme weather conditions.
2. Certain weather related risks have appeared in areas previouosly not exposed to such risks.
3. Due to #1 and #2 above geographically insurance companies are over exposured to these higher risks. Meaning too many policies are sold within too narrow a geographic area.
4. Reserves for catatrophic risk are insufficient. Should catastrohic events once believed to be "once every 500 year events" occur within a few years of each other the solviency of some companies could be at risk.

A systemic change in our climate has occured and insurance companies are reacting accordingly. Why such a change has occured I make no claim to know. But be certain it has happened.

Posted by: kchses1 | April 22, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

sdavis3398 whilst I smell some rat with oswego_guy's post, ivy league and whatever... your assumption is completely coming out from the discredited findings of some scientists and of that clever guy Al Gore with his discredited presentation which in England has been removed from the schools. As for your statement that you are sick of listening to deniers I promise you we are sick listening to guys like you trying to peddle theories that you have no clue about.

Posted by: demec | April 22, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

"That’s critical -- despite what you might have gathered from GOP demagoguery about “cap-and-tax” bills" the flaming liberal/progressive Stephen Stromberg

.....Thanks Stephen for such an unbias "story" on the global warming CON.....

Looks like the liberal/progressives hold-up in our Free Left-wing press can't ever get enough of attacking Republicans and others who exercise their First Amendment rights......

POST = still a dirty dishonest liberal/progressive proaganda outlet for the Democrat Party.......sad but true

Posted by: allenridge | April 22, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

you do realise oswego_guy that our energy consumption per capita is one of the highest in the world. Not a stat to be proud of. Conserving energy is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

As to sovereignity v United Nations oversight. We ask (or at least try) to get all other nations to comply.Good for the goose is good for the gander. Hmmm ?

Posted by: arunc1 | April 22, 2010 12:58 AM |
==========================

Gee whiz .......so what that we use the most energy, what does that mean?

And we use the most energy because we have the largest economy in the world, producing $13 Trillions worth of goods and services per year.......so yeah we do consume the most energy.....but there isn't any wrong with that.

And libs......something you need to warm up to and that is if Environmentalists and their Democrat pals hadn't blocked the builiding of nuclear power plants for the last thirty years we could have had every coal burning plant off-line by now.

Thanks for nothing........

Posted by: allenridge | April 22, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse


Why is anyone taking oswego-guy seriously? Are we so stupid to believe that two harvard professors are chatting about such a politically charged topic in the library? (And oswego guy is on the other side of the bookshelf with his ear pressed up hard against the bookcase?) He's obviously a masquerading climate denier.

What nonsense! Climate deniers are getting desperate. This whole debate is so ignorant and increasingly morally defunct... just like the republican party!

Posted by: rhizome1 | April 22, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

By all means, Democrats should trust the political calculations of John Kerry. Are you kidding?

Posted by: BBear1 | April 22, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

John Kerry only does what spouse Teresa tells him, after all, she's the wealthy one, not the carpetbagger who accumulated wealth by marriage to wealthy widows. Would anyone buy a used car from this lummox?

Posted by: nmg3rln | April 22, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

to all,

i'll listen to anything that HANOI-John Kerry (the FILTHY, STINKING, TRAITOR) wants to say the day AFTER he goes on every national TV network, gets down on his knees & BEGS every one of the VietNam veterans that he KNOWINGLY & TRAITOROUSLY LIED about, when he appeared & LIED under oath before Congress, to forgive him.

NOTHING that he said before, then or since can be believed by any THINKING person as he DEMONSTRABLY/knowingly PERJURED himself, from the moment that he took an oath to "tell the TRUTH, the WHOLE TRUTH & NOTHING BUT the TRUTH" until he left the hearing room.

furthermore, about HALF the medals, that he has posed wearing, were NOT ever awarded to him! = that's, despite what you heard from the DIMocRATS, was WHY The Swiftboaters for TRUTH were formed.

NO former American GI has any use for (and we all DESPISE!) a person who will LIE about his comrades-in-arms OR wear decorations that are NOT his own!
(fyi, we call doing that: "STOLEN HONOR"!)

yours, TN46

Posted by: texasnative46 | April 22, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

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