A new report that says climate change is a matter of national urgency is getting a cold reception from leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee says that the evidence of the earth’s warming is becoming more apparent.

But the odds of any federal legislation that would be enacted to combat such effects are nil. That’s because the two political parties, generally, are sharply divided over whether man-made emissions are the central cause behind the gradual warming trend. Most Republicans and some Democrats say that the phenomenon can be attributed to natural causes in weather cycles.

To that end, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Republican-dominated leadership has said that it will not consider any proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If technologies improve and they would become commercially available, then that would be the market-wise thing to do. Specifically, those leaders are saying that any resurrection of the carbon tax idea won’t happen.

Similarly, President Obama is saying that his administration is not going to get bogged down in trying to enact a carbon tax. However, unlike the House Republicans, the president believes that government regulations can lead to fewer heat-trapping emissions and that such rules would accelerate those tools that could lower those releases.

“Evidence for climate change abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” says the 60-person federal advisory committee that authored the draft climate report. “Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and in some regions, floods and droughts ... These changes are part of the pattern of climate change, which is primarily driven by human activity.”

Last year was the hottest year ever recorded in this country, according to those who track such things. It was also among the 10 hottest worldwide. The draft report issued by the federal advisory committee says that unless steps are taken to reduce heat-trapping emissions that global temperatures could rise by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of this century.

“Climate change is already affecting us and there’s a growing demand at the local level for information about what it means for our present and our future,” says Todd Sanford, a scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The climate conversation always starts with science. Because policymakers have generally supported policies that increase emissions, successfully adapting to climate change is becoming more difficult.”

New Thinking

The political opposition to crafting any legislation to deal with climate change is too formidable, meaning that any such bill could not make it to the House floor for a vote. Meantime, Democrats from coal-producing states are also opposed. Two West Virginia lawmakers have co-authored a measure that forbids any federal carbon tax on electric or transportation fuels.

Rep. David McKinely, R-WV, has joined with Rep. Nick Rahall, D-WV, to say that a carbon tax would increase the price of all energy forms. It is therefore not a tenable solution in today’s economic environment.

However, in some conservative circles, there is support for a carbon tax. Former Secretary of State George Schultz has said that British Columbia has implemented a carbon tax whereby its government will gradually increase it before redistributing the revenues to individuals. So, it is popular. He adds that Republican lawmakers may want to take up this measure to regain its standing as the party that has adopted and enforced the original 1970 Clean Air Act. 

“Conservatives have the answer to our energy and climate challenge,” adds Bob Inglis, head of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative and a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina. “It’s about correcting market distortions and setting the economics right. We need to stop retreating in denial and start stepping forward in the competition of ideas.”

Despite the disagreements between the parties and among conservatives, companies are moving forward to reduce their carbon footprints. Calvert Investments discusses Google, AT&T and Coca-Cola. Google, for instance, publicly lists its renewable energy holdings as well as its carbon footprint that it wants to reduce to zero. Meanwhile, AT&T also has a goal of increasing its green energy and decreasing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Coca-Cola has pledged 5 percent cuts in all of its emissions by 2015.

By any measure, the earth is warming. The president has his ideas while House leaders have theirs. And whether one attributes this to man-made greenhouse gases or natural weather cycles, it is undeniable that major parts of the marketplace are making their own moves.


EnergyBiz Insider has been awarded the Gold for Original Web Commentary presented by the American Society of Business Press Editors. The column is also the Winner of the 2011 Online Column category awarded by Media Industry News, MIN. Ken Silverstein has been honored as one of MIN’s Most Intriguing People in Media.

Twitter: @Ken_Silverstein

energybizinsider@energycentral.com