"We have been too
kind to those people who are destroying the planet ~ inexcusably, unforgivably,
-- Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame
As the bell rang in the U.S. House of Representatives,
announcing the 219-212 vote for passage of the Waxman-Markey climate bill, also
known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), the skies over Washington, DC
ripped loose with a mighty storm.
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Visibility was cut to a couple of feet as a torrential downpour was accompanied by hail that raised a ruckus so loud inside the car that
conversation was impossible. Tourists
with inadequate umbrellas were left with skin stinging from the pelting. There were small waves cresting on the Potomac River and flash flooding. Local areas got several inches of rain in
less than an hour. Large
trees bowed, split and littered the streets.
At least 2
people in the Washington, DC region died from the storm. Forty-year-old, supermom Kelly Murray of Chevy Chase, Maryland
and her 7-year-old daughter Sloane, died when a fallen tree branch crushed them
in their mini-van on Connecticut
Avenue. Murray leaves a husband
and 4 daughters: Maeve, Jillian, Quinn
With the evidence of catastrophic climate change coming more clearly into daily focus, President Obama dared to say, "We're not going to get there in one fell swoop." Mother Nature
seemed to declare, "I beg to differ, Waxman-Markey, that simply will not do."
"Vital authority for the EPA is stripped, but 2 billion additional tons of pollution are authorized every year, forever. Residential consumer protection incredibly is entrusted to the mercy of utility companies. Exempting a hundred new coal plants and paying billions to Old King Coal leaves him, indeed, a very merry old soul. This bill is 85% different from what President Obama proposed months ago," said Brent Blackwelter, President of Friends of the Earth, one of the groups opposed to the House version of the bill.
Even The Washington Post, which has grown
increasingly conservative, said in an editorial, "Congress should deliver a
bill to Mr. Obama this year. But given that congressional action could set a
template for years or decades, we think it's too soon to settle for something
that falls so far short of ideal," as the House version of the bill does.
and energy advocate, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) was in the minority
voting against the bill. He and, "It won't address the problem. In fact, it
might make the problem worse.
It certainly seems as if the lights may be on, powered by dirty coal, but there is nobody home in the U.S. House of Representatives. Did they miss the report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1990 when they said we must cut greenhouse gas emissions 60-80% immediately? Were they
unconscious when in 2001, the IPCC said that the problem was 50% worse than
Has Congress missed the rapidly receding Arctic ice? Did it not register with them when Katie
Walters reported in Science Magazine
that methane, the greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide,
was bubbling out of the arctic, taking humanity into the dreaded phase, where
climate change may be beyond human control?
Were U.S. House members on recess when the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology recently said, "The most comprehensive modeling yet
carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth's climate will get
in this century shows that without rapid
and massive action, the problem will
be about twice as severe as previously estimated six years ago - and could be
even worse than that."
By the time that we should have atmospheric greenhouse gases
under control, The Breakthrough Initiative said of the ACES bill: "If fully utilized, the emissions 'offset'
provisions in the [bill] would allow continued business as usual, growth in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions
until 2030, leading one to wonder: where's the cap in the 'cap' and trade?"
Let's take a lesson from the failed
experiment with cap and trade in Europe. They started with a commendable goal: to cut greenhouse gases by making companies
pay for each ton of CO2 they emitted.
But that plan, let loose lobbying pandemonium that led politicians to
give favors to industries, blunting the environmental mission, just as
Waxman-Markey will do, in its current form.
Four years later, the European
system has so far produced no benefit to the climate but has generated a
multibillion-dollar bonanza for some of Europe's
biggest polluters. The New York Times reports that a German power company received
$6.4 billion in the first 3 years of the system and that the amount of carbon
dioxide emitted by plants and factories, has not fallen in Europe
instead it has risen an average of about half a percent in 2006 and '07.
Hope is fleeting that the U.S. Senate will bring better sense to bear on climate legislation than the U.S. House, but if they do not, humanity may be screwed. With a filibuster-proof, Democratic majority including the recently affirmed, Al Franken (D-MN), fixing Waxman-Markey ultimately rests with one person -- Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) of Connecticut who was the lead sponsor of an even weaker bill in 2003.
At a time when serious leadership is needed to cut greenhouse gases 80% below 1990 levels by 2025, the inadequate greenhouse gas cap in Waxman-Markey cuts greenhouse gas emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% by 2050. A plan for achieving meaningful cuts in
greenhouse gases is easily stated: Get
off the fossil fuel economy and transition to a 100% clean, renewable,
non-nuclear energy economy within 10 years.
Stop all logging, mining, grazing and drilling. America, this is your climate bill.
© Karyn Strickler,
2009. Karyn is a political scientist,
grassroots organizer and writer. She is
a senior fellow with the Center for New Politics and Policy. Karyn is the producer and host of Climate
Challenge on MMCTV. You can contact her
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