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FEATURE

Grading a Climate Bill, Part 1





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If Mother Nature were handing out grades, she’d have a difficult time assigning one to the 1,200-page climate dissertation known as Waxman-Markey, approved by the House and now being considered by the Senate.

For one thing, she’d have to grade on a curve. What looks like an “A” in Washington may qualify for no more than a “C” or “D” outside the beltway – and may be no better than “F” in the rest of the world.

Now that Senate leadership has postponed markup of a climate bill until late September, it should take time to carefully consider how it defines “success”. With the future of the planet hanging in the balance, with the world watching for what the United States will do, and with Congressional action likely to have a major influence on whether we’ll see a global climate agreement at Copenhagen, this is probably the most important exam the current members of Congress will ever take.

The Waxman-Markey bill offers an example of how Washington grades itself by different standards. One of the bill’s supporters – an environmental leader for whom I have great respect – has praised it as a splendid example of the legislative process at its best, delicately balancing the interests of the many diverse constituencies it would affect.

That’s not the test the rest of the world will apply. Few of us outside the beltway care much about the efficiency of the legislative process, as rare as that might be. To qualify as a real success, climate policy must pass at least four far more important tests: the Science Test, the Copenhagen Test, the Boxer Test and the Leadership Test. Continued...

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