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Climate SOS: Any Old Climate Bill Won't Do, Time to Scrap Waxman-Markey and Fight for Real Change

A new movement is demanding more from the president, Congress and even most major environmental groups in order to pass truly meaningful climate legislation.

The world watched last week's U.N. climate summit in anxious anticipation, hopeful that our "yes we can" president would say something earth shattering, or at least encouraging. Instead, President Barack Obama promised nothing more than that the U.S. is "determined to take action" on climate change.

While the Maldives are sinking, and floods, droughts, hurricanes and melting Arctic ice are daily headlines, all he can say is that we are "determined"? This is disturbingly reminiscent of George W. Bush stating that the U.S. "aspires" to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

What did we want our new president to say? That the U.S. would take on strong binding emissions-reduction targets and pony up the funding required to assist the developing world in coping with the consequences of warming; that we have the laws in place, or at least shortly forthcoming, and are ready to do our part to end the stalemate and engage meaningfully with international negotiation processes!

Outside of the summit, in the bright heart of Central Park in New York City, a collaborative effort involving Avaaz and Oxfam was organized, intended to kick off a " Global Wake Up Call" on climate. People reveling in the gorgeous weather were recruited to participate in an "aerial art" project illustrating that time is running out for addressing the climate crisis and that we must act now.

Yes, but what exactly should that action look like? Are they asking for the Senate to pass a bill like the one that cleared the House in June?

The devil, as always is in the details. While many heralded the House climate bill as a great achievement, those who have peeked behind the mirrors and read between the lines, are faced with a serious quandary: while supporting the call for strong action, they find the House's American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) to be such an abomination that notables like NASA climate scientist James Hansen, have called it "worse for the environment than doing nothing." Oops!

Why has Hansen said this, and why do many others agree?

For one thing, ACESA would have us adopt a cap-and-trade mechanism to bring down emissions. Many have been critical of this approach because where it has been tried, it has proved profitable to polluters and ineffective at reducing global-warming pollution.

It creates a very large, complex and inscrutable artificial market that runs the risk of being brought to its knees, just as any other market. ACESA sets absurdly meek targets, a 1 to 4 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2020. But even that would be rendered meaningless by the large offset provisions.

According to analysis by the International Rivers Network, if the 2 billion tons of allowed offsets were used, the U.S. would carry on business as usual, with rising greenhouse-gas emissions, through 2029.

ACESA would also seek to repeal EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions, essentially removing the one regulatory tool that we have in place.

And, the renewable-energy provisions of ACESA is a nightmare for those concerned with the growing tendency to offer up the world's forests, grasslands and biodiversity as "renewable energy" to be burned in power plants as "carbon neutral," or refined into biofuels for cars.

The Peterson Amendment forced into ACESA by the House Agriculture Committee, would exempt agriculture, one of the most-polluting sectors, from the cap, and instead establish a massive agriculture and forestry offsetting program.

This would enable polluters to offset their emissions by supporting practices like "no till." But no till generally involves industrial farming of genetically engineered soy, and without tilling, more toxic chemical weed killers are used. These practices can hardly be considered "climate friendly." Regulation of these offsets, would be taken from the EPA and handed over to the agribusiness-friendly USDA.