Climate Change denialism is nothing new. Deliberate attempts to convince people that global climate change is not a threat have been undertaken for two decades. The explicit purpose of these attempts has been to challenge the science and create a fog of doubt. Fortunately, those in Congress who peddle this corporate-sponsored argument are generally laughed at. Their crazy ideas are not even considered in the legislation that is moving next month in the Senate -- and for that I'm relieved.
George W. Bush was ahead of his time on this tactic, claiming to accept the science by the end of his administration while continuing to insist on voluntary measures as the only solution. But current members of Congress who adopt such a stance are of primary concern now. Two Republican Senators who I believe have already tipped their hands on this are Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander.
Consider Senator Murkowski. She told the Alaska Municipal League's Climate Change Conference last year that she is the "first to admit that climate change is a serious concern", emphasizing the specific impacts climate change has already had on Alaska's economy and "way of life." Yet here is her most direct statement on Kerry-Boxer so far:
"We must determine how to balance environmental progress with economic growth," said Murkowski. "Our economy is already struggling-now is not the time to enact a bill that impose financial burdens that extent of which we don't know for sure."
"For the next 20 years if we really want to deal with global warming, we only have one option ... to double nuclear power plants."
The implication is that if we build 100 nuclear plants in 20 years, and count them toward a renewable electricity standard (nuclear is not renewable), Alexander may just vote for the bill. This is a trick and Democrats should not fall for it. Here is Senator Alexander's revealing statement on the Kerry-Boxer bill:
"These are fancy, complicated words for high-cost energy that sends jobs overseas looking for cheap energy."
What is particularly telling about this is the fact that from what I'm hearing the expected nuclear title will be substantial. It was intentionally left incomplete in the bill as introduced to serve as a bargaining chip to gain Republican support. The fact that Lamar Alexander would come out against the bill so aggressively is an indication that his talk of potentially supporting a bill is just that, and will never amount to anything tangible.
At the end of the day, if you don't vote for or support the bill because of some secondary concern I refuse to believe that you truly accept climate science. The consequences of continuing on the path we are on will seriously disrupt major industries, ironically some of the same short-sighted industries that fight the hardest to defend the status quo. I simply can't believe people are capable of the cognitive dissonance required to reconcile this fact with deliberate attempts to block solutions.
Unfortunately, Senators like these are in a position to use the allure of their potential support in order to extract concessions, only to turn around and oppose the legislation in the end. This is what Republicans did during the stimulus fight and several have already done so during the health care fight. I asked Senator Boxer if there was a strategy for dealing with this in a Daily Kos liveblog the other day, but she didn't respond.
Now, don't get me wrong. There are some Senators who aren't automatic yes votes that should not be included in this category. Chief among them is Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who is leading a bloc of Midwestern Senators to ensure a level playing field for American manufacturers and prevent carbon leakage. These are legitimate concerns and I fully expect them to be resolved successfully. There are also superficial concerns of process that I believe will be resolved as well. One such example is Senator Voinovich's insistence on bipartisan support before he will... lend the bill his bipartisan support.
And there are even some like John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Joe Lieberman and others who advocate non-solutions and may actually support the bill if they are included. I agree with David Roberts that folks like these are worth negotiating with, but only if real commitments are secured, Democrats compromise with money rather than architecture, and nuclear is not included in a renewable electricity standard.
When push comes to shove the important thing is that negotiators in the Senate are able to tell the difference between Senators who are participating in the debate in good faith and those who are not. Then they should completely ignore those who are not.