According to the Center for American Progress (CAP, not to be confused with the U.S. Climate Action Partnership), the COP16 international climate negotiations that just concluded have achieved essentially the best result we could reasonably have hoped for:
“This year, with the exception of a lone holdout [the Bolivian amassador] who was overruled by the Mexican chair of the meeting at the last minute, all 194 parties agreed to turn the core elements of the Copenhagen Accord, expressed in a scant six page outline last year, to 33 pages of densely packed text which the negotiators will now be bound to use in working for a final agreement. It will also set substantive global goals and requirements on [global-warming] adaptation and mitigation for the present.
“This outcome gets us halfway between the original idea of the Copenhagen Accord as originally articulated by the Danes: A two step process starting with a political agreement in 2009 to be followed by a legal agreement based on the same principles at a later date. While the Cancun Agreements are not the full second step they are a solid half step forward, a kind of Copenhagen 1.5.”
- Andrew Light, “The Cancun Compromise,” December 11, 2010
Okay, sounds pretty good, but what I’m wondering is, won’t any international agreement become fairly meaningless (a la Kyoto) after the Republicans follow through on their plans to destroy any and all U.S. policy that would work toward said agreement’s goals? After all, as CAP itself points out:
“Seventy-six percent of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate next year and 52 percent of Republicans in the House of Representatives publicly question the science of global warming. All four candidates set to take over the House Committee on Energy and Commerce -- Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) -- have disparaged climate scientists and climate policy.”
- Faiz Shakir et al, “Climate Zombie Caucus,” November 22, 2010
Yet another CAP article points to some reasons for hope:
“The World Resources Institute notes that through ambitious use of the available tools at hand the United States can reduce emissions by 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020—well on the way to meeting President Barack Obama’s commitment in Copenhagen to a 17 percent reduction. These tools include EPA regulations and state-by-state regional climate agreements.
“WRI calculated that this 14 percent reduction could be achieved through aggressive state policies and improved federal executive agency enforcement, even without major new federal legislation on reducing vehicle miles traveled, federal land management policies, or new federal investments in areas such as energy efficiency and renewable energy infrastructure. And particularly without a federal climate treaty.
“Estimates by Environment America are even more bullish on the potential impact of proactive state-level policy measures. If even modest federal actions were taken, in addition to robust regional and administrative efforts, much deeper emissions reductions would be well within reach even in the absence of climate legislation.”
- Bracken Hendricks, “Bottom Up in Cancun,” December 10, 2010
Still, I have to wonder how long we have before the “tools” described above are smashed by the “climate zombies” in Congress and elsewhere, especially considering the results of this year’s midterms, and the even worse beating progressives will probably take in the 2012 elections, thanks to Citizens United. According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics,
“Identifiably conservative organizations are spending more than $2 on advertisements and other communications for every $1 liberal organizations do. . . .
“A key factor in these realities: Major industries and special interest areas that had just months ago primarily bankrolled Democrats have suddenly flocked to the GOP – a phenomenon that the Center finds has only increased in speed as Election Day draws closer. . . .
“An [especially] extreme example of a shift away from Democrats comes from the energy sector, which in January 2009 fueled Democrats with 56 percent of its federal-level political contributions. By September , preliminary numbers indicate Republicans benefitted from 74 percent of the sector’s cash.”
Unless these people (mostly foreigners, I think) get into the game somehow, the disparity is going to be even worse in 2012. And while the results of a single U.S. election don’t constitute a Mayan apocalypse by themselves, their ultimate impact on climate policy just might.