Republicans and Hot Air

Remember during the election, when conservatives mocked Obama for this line in his stump speech: “I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children … this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”?

(On June 4, 2008, to refresh your memory with just one example, Commentary’s blog ran this headline as Alarming News: “Obama to lower ocean levels and heal planet. No, really.”)

Well, don’t look now. On Friday, we woke to the news that for the first time in history, the U.S. House of Representatives, thanks to Obama’s leadership, passed a bill that would seriously begin to address global warming.

As the New York Times writes:

The vote was the first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change. The legislation … could lead to profound changes in many sectors of the economy, including electric power generation, agriculture, manufacturing and construction.

It’s a large, complicated bill, but here’s the nut: The bill would set up a “cap and trade” system, setting a cap on overall emissions of heat-trapping gases in the U.S.; industries would have to buy permits, allowing them to pay $13 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted; manufacturers and utilities would then trade these carbon allowances among themselves. Essentially, they would pay to pollute. It would be phased in over time (the bill requires a 20 percent CO2 cut by 2020, a 42 percent cut by 2030, and an 83 percent cut by 2050), forcing manufacturers to come up with cleaner methods of production.

Slate writes that the 219-212 vote was one brief shining moment for the environment:

The bill would transform the U.S. economy in four decades, replacing the vast majority of American’s carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption with a clean energy economy built around energy efficiency and renewable energy.

[It] would push tremendous amounts of low-carbon energy into the electric sector. Obama’s stimulus bill had already directed $90 billion toward clean energy, dramatically boosting projections of wind and solar and biomass energy penetration in the near term.

It doesn’t go as far as we need to — but it’s a start. And, best of all, to facilitate the program, the average American household would pay only $175 a year extra in energy costs by 2020. That amounts, as Slate writes, to “about a postage stamp a day.”

Still, Republicans predict it will devastate the economy. And word is it’s going to take a huge effort from Obama and his White House to get it through the Senate.

“No matter how you doctor it or tailor it,” Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, told the Times in a typical critique, “it is a tax.”

To which I would respond with a midrash, or interpretation, from last week’s Torah portion, about Korah’s failed rebellion against Moses and Aaron.

One tradition pictures Korah complaining about the tithes and offerings Moses demanded of the people, saying “You lay a heavier burden on us than the Egyptians did.” Korah, in this midrash, never mentions that these taxes were designed to help the poor, to maintain the sanctuary, and to give the Israelites ways of expressing their gratitude to God and their dependence on God.

To maintain the sanctuary.

No matter how you doctor it or tailor it, if we fail to address global warming, we are facing massive sea-level rise, widespread desertification, and a 10-degree fahrenheit rise over much of the inland U.S.

Would somebody mind telling me a single thing that this current crop of G.O.P. lawmakers is for?


3 Responses to “Republicans and Hot Air”

  1. j says:

    The problem is there is no link between CO2 and increase in global temps. It is an inverse relationship, and for those who recall their 8th grade statistics class, know that there is no correlation.

    Global temps, according to all the research is completely contingent on solar flares and motion. Over the last 10 years the earth has cooled a degree. The global warming activists ignore this fact and chose to “believe” otherwise. Last century there was a degree increase, but in the first decade of this one, it has returned. Thus a zero net effect.

    The problem with this type of legislation is that it taxes for political purposes, using junk science to validate the policy.

    Most independent scientists agree that global warming is politics rather than actual science. If you are a scientist and disagree, likely you are the recipient of a grant dollar that is meant to prove the existence of the same phenomena. It has been political suicide in academia to go against the flow of grant funds. And as the vast majority of grant funds are positioned into researching the effects of global warming, the conclusions, if you desire to remain funded, must be in line with the grant purpose.

  2. Neurotic Dem says:

    first — thanks for posting. i appreciate your contributing to the blog.
    all of the serious science that i’ve seen on this supports the notion that greenhouse gasses are causing temperatures to rise. there are many, many examples, but here is just one, from a normally cautious United Nations panel of scientists:
    “On Feb. 2, 2007, the United Nations scientific panel studying climate change declared that the evidence of a warming trend is “unequivocal,” and that human activity has “very likely” been the driving force in that change over the last 50 years. The last report by the group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in 2001, had found that humanity had “likely” played a role.”
    the Union of Concerned Scientists ( ), which represents more than 250,000 scientists and citizens, states:
    “Global warming is one of the most serious challenges facing us today. To protect the health and economic well-being of current and future generations, we must reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases by using the technology, know-how, and practical solutions already at our disposal.”
    how do you account for the vast number of scientists who aren’t grant recipients, but who are seriously concerned?
    what concerns me is that most of the science i read indicates that we are quickly nearing a tipping point on this — a point of no return — afterwhich we won’t be able to do anything to stop or slow global warming.
    there is a downright horrifying article in the current atlantic about what might happen then — including scenarios that have us pumping sulfur dioxide into our atmosphere to shield our planet from the sun. (see “Re-engineering the Earth”; I encourage you to look at it.
    even if i grant you the fact that there is a debate on this, doesn’t it make sense — given the ticking clock — to do something instead of nothing?

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