Increasing Pessimism on Copenhagen, US Climate Bill

dead+globeA bad week for climateers. Several news reports out Wednesday pour cold water on imminent climate change change.

The Wall Street Journal reports “Climate Bill Likely on the Shelf for Rest of the Year.” Obviously it’s not over until the fat lady sings, but a key Democratic senator, Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said “it’s common understanding that climate-change legislation will not be brought up on the Senate floor and pass the Senate this year,” according to WSJ.

Baucus’ comment was reinforced by one from Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who told the Washington Post “I don’t see any climate bill on the table right now that I can support.”

The New York Times meanwhile gossips that at a symposium Tuesday of climate change experts and representatives from China, Brazil and other nations sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, the general consensus was that achieving a broad, global agreement at Copenhagen was “very very low,” in the words of Atul Arya of BP, the British oil company.

Sun Guoshun, the first secretary at the Chinese embassy in Washington, argued that because First World nations emitted most greenhouse gases up to this point, they should pay for halting climate change.

Mr. Sun also claimed that if the rest of the globe’s citizens had carbon footprints the size of the average American, the world will “have been already destroyed” by 2020.

Not exactly a cooperative atmosphere for talks.

Cold, Hard Cash

But is this really news? For anyone the least bit familiar with the healthcare ground war going on this fall in Congress, it shouldn’t come as surprise that the nearly-as-contentious climate change bill is being kicked down the road.

Ditto for Copenhagen, where Republican v. Democrat spats over who is going to pay for climate change legislation is paralleled in Developed v. Developing nation spats…over who is going to pay for climate change legislation.

You could practically substitute the generic Republican Party naysayer with a nameless Communist Party functionary from the People’s Republic of China: “here in ____ [Xian, PRC/Wheeling, WV] we depend on cheap coal to keep our economy afloat, and we don’t think it’s fair we should have to pay for over-privileged ____ [First Worlders/Liberals] environmental concerns.”

The Chinese, to their credit, at least believe global warming is real, unlike Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who calls global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

Hopenhagen and Wishing-ton

Lost in all the bickering and negativity (Inhofe said he’ll go to Copenhagen just to heckle the American delegation) is a simple fact: global warming is on the agenda like never before. The mere existence of a serious climate bill working its way through Congress would have been unimaginable just a year ago. And the anger of deniers like Inhofe blasting away at Copenhagen suggests that these global conferences are gaining political potency here in the States.

In the Council symposium, Frank E. Loy, the chief United States negotiator on climate change under President Clinton, said Copenhagen could produce the framework for “devising the architecture for some future agreement on climate change.”

And José Goldemberg, a physicist, professor and former senior Brazilian government official, responded to complaints from China and other nations that the First World should pay for stopping global warming because, in essence, “they started it,” with advice that could apply equally well to climate bill opponents in the US Congress.

“There is much inequity in the world,” Mr. Goldemberg said. “You can’t expect climate legislation to address that.’’

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

4 responses

  1. What we’re looking at is the ultimate failure of the up and coming Copenhagen conference. If China and some other nations have their way, Copenhagen will become nothing more than a Kyoto II, in that the brunt of emission reduction will be thrust upon develped nations while developing nations are given free reign to do as they please. I would remind readers that China is currently the leading polluter in the world, having surpassed the US, and continues to grow with every new coal-fired plant that comes online.

    Now, the question is how can we use this to our advantage here in the US to devolop and build sustainable energy systems and bring back our manufacturing industry.

    1. I hope Copenhagen is dead. Carbon is not a criminal. Carbon is GOOD for the planet. Deal with real environmental issues – deforestation, pollutants in waterways, salination levels – rather than wasting your time or money fixing a problem that doesn’t exist.

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