Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Climate-bill backers talk too much about jobs, not enough about climate change, liberal writer says

"Congress is finally ready to address climate change, but the American public seems headed in the opposite direction," The Nation says in introducing an opinion piece from its Washington editor, Christopher Hayes. He notes recent polls that show fewer Americans "think global warming is happening at all . . . think it's because of human activity [and] think it's a 'very serious problem'."

Hayes offers possible reasons: "The past few years have been fairly temperate. The economic crisis has pushed issues perceived as not immediately vital to the back burner. And a good portion of the decline in belief in the climate science comes from sheer partisan polarization: for certain Americans in the era of death panels, birthers and Glenn Beck, if Barack Obama says the world is warming, then it must not be."

He makes no reference to the stolen e-mails of climate scientists, as he should have. That controversy "has given new life to the skeptic camp that had been largely relegated to the sidelines during this year's legislative fight and, in the minds of opponents, handed them a potent new weapon against the climate bill," E & E Daily (subscriber-only) reports this afternoon. Michael McKenna, a Republican lobbyist won energy issues, told E&E, "It allows elected officials, it allows media, it allows guys like me access to the science debate again. For a very long chunk of time, the science debate was thought to be toxic. It was settled, it was done, let's move along. This has given folks who want to talk about the science a very easy access point." UPDATE, Dec. 10: "E-mails being cited as 'smoking guns' have been misrepresented," FactCheck.org reports.

McKenna's point could actually be an argument for Hayes' main point, that the climate-change bill has been sold too much as a jobs bill and too little as prevention of "catastrophic climate change." He acknowledges that "people don't care enough about the climate to motivate any broad support, that immediate concerns like jobs dwarf abstract ones like carbon dioxide, and prophecies of doom have a strong chance of backfiring and causing paralysis, but in so overwhelmingly focusing their rhetorical energy away from the central argument about climate, the good guys have created a vacuum that the armies of reaction have rushed to fill. . . . The large, unwieldy coalition committed to making sure we don't do catastrophic damage to our fellow humans around the globe needs to make sure we put climate back at the center of the climate debate." (Read more)

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