Kudos to John Kerry and Lindsey Graham. Their op-ed in Sunday’s Times points the way to a breakthrough in the climate change debate that’s desperately needed.
Their proposal has six elements. (1) Aggressive reductions in emissions. (2) Support for nuclear power. (3) Financial incentives for so-called clean coal. (4) More domestic oil and gas production. (5) Trade barriers to protect U.S. industry from competition from places that don’t regulate greenhouse gases. (6) Cost controls.
Each one of those ideas is controversial. Environmentalists, for the most part, oppose nukes. Some are skeptical about clean coal. Protectionism raises thorny issues. So does the idea of trying to protect businesses and consumers from the rising cost of electricity sincethe economic rationale for putting a price on carbon is to capture the social and environmental cost of global warming pollutants.
Still, Kerry and Graham have pointed the way forward. Now it’s up to other Washington politicians–the president, Barbara Boxer, John McCain–to get behind this bipartisan approach to climate change legislation. Big business and big green groups, organized as the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, have key roles to play, too.
Initial reaction to the Kerry-Graham blueprint has been favorable, at least from the left. Dan Lashof, director of the climate center at NRDC, calls it a “game-changer” and writes:
It’s hard to overstate the significance of this joint declaration. It ensures that the Senate bill will be bipartisan. It demonstrates that there is a pathway to 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
At Climate Progress, knowledeable and prolific climate blogger Joe Romm says:
The two Senators have a powerful message to the naysayers — and the status quo media which has prematurely written the obituary for both domestic and international climate action
Conservatives are not as enthusiastic. A blogger at The Liberty Journal calls Graham “an enemy of Americans and the Constitution.”
Last week, I wrote a post called How Republicans Can Save the Climate Bill. It got a lot of attention and not a little scorn. (That means you, David Roberts!) One way to break the climate deadlock, I suggested, was to make nuclear power part of the climate solution. I also wrote that a bipartisan climate solution is more likely to stick than a Democratic bill because if things go wrong with carbon regulation (and they will), Democrats and Republicans will both have a stake in fixing them. What’s more, the environment has until relatively recently been a bipartisan issue–for all the fundamental differences in the ways that Republicans and Democrats look at the world, there’s no reason they can’t find common ground to deal with global warming.
As Kerry and Graham write:
the best way to make America stronger is to work together to address an urgent crisis facing the world.