For all the flaws of the climate bill that passed the House but ground to a halt in the Senate this past winter, the need for action to reduce the risks of costs of climate change remains as acute as ever.
The practical attitude towards this central question, as expressed recently by Ron Brownstein, an astute political observer for years with the Los Angeles Times and many other publications, is that the U.S. must act, and so — in time — it will.
President Obama and the trio of senators expected to soon release a compromise bill are making extraordinary efforts to address the concerns of energy interests and legislative moderates on both sides who have resisted action on climate. If those incentives can't break the logjam, the result could be a sustained stalemate that prevents the United States from advancing in any direction on energy.
Reading between the lines, Brownstein sounds almost a little optimistic. So too does veteran business journalist Steven Pearlstein for the Washington Post:
Six weeks ago, it looked as if there was no chance that Congress would
approve climate change legislation this year.
The bill that had passed the House was so long, so complicated, so
punitive to the coal-dependent Midwest economy, involved so many
political compromises and so much money to be redistributed by the
federal government, that it became the whipping boy of choice for
conservative politicians and commentators.
Passage of health-care legislation, however, may have changed all that.
Democrats and their liberal supporters saw how much good could be
accomplished by not allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good.
And Republicans and the business lobby were reminded of the concessions
they could have won but didn't by their decision to abandon bipartisan
compromise and instead try to kill the legislation altogether.
At a climate change symposium I reported on for the Ventura County Star this Friday, the final speaker, Terrapass founder Peter Freed, reminded the dwindling crowd that "everyone is waiting" for the US to act.
That's true both at home (utility companies, as Brownstein mentions in his piece, are waiting for a signal on fuel pricing) and abroad (China has as much to lose as we do from a changing climate, and may well be willing to make a deal — if we are really willing to act).
Could this simple fact be the best argument for action to reduce the risks and costs of global warming?
That the world is watching, and that we cannot let the planet down?