Sunday, November 15, 2009

Systemic Barriers to Progress on Climate and Energy: The U.S. Senate

With the entire planet waiting for the U.S. to step up and lead on climate change solutions, why couldn't America get our act together in time for Copenhagen?

One key problem, argues David Roberts of Grist, is the institutional roadblocks put up by the U.S. Senate.

In an infuriating post, Roberts points out how just 7.4% of Americans can block humanity's efforts to save itself:

Senate ratification of an international treaty requires not just 60 but 67 votes. Say 34 senators rally to block such a treaty—senators from, oh, Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, Idaho, Nebraska, West Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. Thus can representatives for 22,540,352 people—7.4% of the population—block the will of the other 281,519,372. Indeed, senators representing 7.4% of Americans can thwart the entire world’s efforts to address the climate crisis.

With climate disruption accelerating faster than expected, and our next major oil crisis no doubt not far away, something's got to give here.  With the world waiting, the Senate's Majority leader, Harry Reid, needs to show much bolder leadership than he has to date.  Most importantly, Reid needs to find a way to stop allowing the opposition Republicans, who are clearly both behind and out of step with the public majority on climate and energy, to use the filibuster to thwart progress.  I have no doubt that if the tables were turned, Republicans would absolutely not be allowing Democrats to so abuse the filibuster.

CVI is a non-partisan organization, and so rather than speaking out on a partisan basis, we speak out in support of policies that reflect the best recommendations of top experts, and offer the greatest prospects for success. 

Clearly, what the top experts are saying we need is for you to be creatively bold, Senator Reid, and do what Americans elected your party to the majority to do: pass bold legislation that moves American and the world forward on solving our crises in climate disruption and fossil fuel dependence (and in doing so helps address the problem of our skyrocketing health insurance costs, many of which are related to pollution caused by fossil fuel burning).

To Republicans, we'd love nothing more than for you to rediscover the spirits of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and get with the program here.  It's one thing to offer a different set of smart, practical approaches than Democrats. But to deny and ignore the consensus of the world's top scientists, scream "Drill Baby Drill" when our own Energy Department says that's not a viable policy solution, and liken President Obama's policies to those of Hitler makes your party's ideas on these issues irrelevant.

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