Where's The Real Global Warming Debate for 2008?
There was a rustle of media coverage yesterday when Barack Obama made a speech about global warming, wherein he claimed once again that he was taking a bold leadership position on the issue as compared to his Democratic rivals, namely Hillary. What Obama didn’t bother to mention however is that he cosponsors the same two cap-and-trade bills in the Senate (Lieberman/McCain’s S. 280, and Sanders/Boxer’s S. 309) that Hillary does, and that both he and Hillary now support the more ambitious reduction targets called for in S. 309 to reduce emission levels 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. (And when he talks about the timidity of other politicians in dealing with our energy dependency problem, he neglects to mention that he voted for the last Bush energy bill.) The major differences between their positions are his commitment to specific CAFE standard increases, and his call for a $150 billion Apollo-style initiative to develop energy independence versus Hillary’s call for “only” a $50 billion commitment. But both he and Hillary have broad plans for energy independence and reducing global warming.
And yet because of the news out of Australia today, both of them now need to go a step further:
Worldwide economic growth has accelerated the level of greenhouse gas emissions to a dangerous threshold scientists had not expected for another decade, according to a leading Australian climate change expert.
Tim Flannery told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that an upcoming report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will contain new data showing that the level of climate-changing gases in the atmosphere has already reached critical levels.
Flannery is not a member of the IPCC, but said he based his comments on a thorough review of the technical data included in the panel's three working group reports published earlier this year. The IPCC is due to release its final report synthesizing the data in November.
"What the report establishes is that the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is already above the threshold that can potentially cause dangerous climate change," Flannery told the broadcaster late Monday. "We are already at great risk of dangerous climate change, that's what these figures say. It's not next year or next decade, it's now."
It’s a safe move for both Obama and Hillary to cosponsor cap and trade bills that allow them to say they will tackle global warming as president. It’s another thing altogether to draw the linkage between our trade policies and the environmental degradation that is killing our planet from those trading partners that have been the beneficiaries of outsourced American jobs and WTO trading benefits.
At a time when even six of ten Republicans now question whether or not America has benefited from free trade, when will a leading Democratic candidate for president go beyond supporting cap and trade proposals and mouthing concerns about free trade agreements to calling for those developing nations to plow their trade surpluses into planet-saving environmental commitments to reduce emissions immediately?