Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Climate Bill Update

It seems like just yesterday our intrepid energy bill passed the House 219-212 as Waxman-Markey, or H.R. 2454. Today, a similar bill recently skidded through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as S. 1733, without stopping for debate or even to greet the Republican members of the committee. While a strategic move by Chairwoman Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), this will no doubt leave a bad taste in the mouths of many Republicans when the bill finally screeches to a halt on the Senate floor for a full debate.

Now, ominously, Senator Lugar (R-IN) has emerged from a high profile meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) saying "I don't see any climate bill on the table right now that I can support," which is really bad news for Democrats, because Sen. Lugar is one of a handful of Republicans who the Democrats were hoping would support the bill, as well as an influential member of his own party.

I was curious to know why he might oppose the bill, and after reading a recent speech of his I have a theory. Out of concern for potential crop shortages in developing countries (and likely also his home constituency) as a result of climate change, he is a proponent of genetically modified (GM) crops for increased productivity, which does not play a part in S.1733. (As some areas become more arid due to climate change, one negative effect could be decreased crop productivity. GM crops are one adaptation option to keep food supply steady for a growing population.) So perhaps it's the lack of this potentially beneficial climate change adaptation technique in the bill that's keeping his support at bay. However, the Obama administration does not seem to be opposed to GM crops, keeping many former Bush policies on that matter in tact. So why would GM not find its way into S.1733 as a compromise?

One word: Copenhagen. Sen. Lugar even mentions it in his speech that the European Union is vehemently opposed to promoting GM crops, and the US wants to make a good impression when the UNFCCC convenes in December in Copenhagen to hash out a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol.

Well, that's probably part of the story, and just my theory. Why do you think Sen. Lugar is withholding support of S.1733? And with Copenhagen literally weeks away, the US doesn't have a hope of having a climate bill passed by then. Is it best for Obama to enter the UNFCCC arena with what we have now or do we need something more?

1 comment:

  1. I just posted a comment that somehow got deleted. So sorry if this is a double post.

    I don't have any specific theories on why Lugar specifically isn't supporting a climate bill. But other than Graham is there any republican who's on board? It could be that Lugar thinks that if the bill isn't perfectly to his liking then there's no real benefit of his supporting it. He'll catch a lot of flack from his party and nothing else.

    As for Copenhagen...I think the U.S. does need to show leadership. I just don't think we have to wait for Congress to act. We can point to the stimulus funding, e.g.. I'm also not sure that Obama has to show up for it to be effective.

    In my dreams, I would love for the U.S. to advocate a different approach that involves specific measures rather than targets and timetables. David Victor suggests a way forward (, and Stephen Schneider also says that targets are a misplaced focus at the end of this interview (,2).

    I have kind of rambled...hope I made some sense!