Framing the Climate Crisis Solution


Saturday's Live Earth global event will hopefully take the global warming issue beyond raising awareness and towards rallying support around a comprehensive solution.

As Eric Alterman and I said in our recent segment, the film "An Inconvenient Truth" has already accomplished the goal of solidifying consensus that there's a human-created climate crisis. Global warming deniers have been effectively marginalized. The remaining challenge is the solution.

Two recent essays point us in the right direction.

One is by Al Gore, the driving force behind Live Earth, from Sunday's New York Times. The other is from Peter Teague and Jeff Navin in The American Prospect.

The two pieces may seem at first blush to be at odds, but in fact they both offer critical counsel and complement each other well.

Gore's op-ed seeks to build support for the number one item on the Live Earth Pledge, a global agreement to cap greenhouse gas emissions: "we should demand that the United States join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy Earth."

Teague and Navin, however, caution against emphasizing regulatory measures, arguing that would raise fears of higher energy costs on working-class Americans. They recommend emphasis on "large-scale, long-term investments" of "billions of taxpayer dollars to speed the transition to a clean energy economy" which will "create jobs and economic opportunity."

But both pieces recognize that this is not an either-or debate and that a comprehensive approach is needed.

Teague and Navin properly observe that:

[Regulation is] one piece of a larger set of strategies designed to speed the emergence of [a clean energy] economy, with interlocking investment, tax, and fiscal policies also designed to send the right market signals and prompt private-sector investment and innovation.

And Gore urges readers to:

focus ... on the opportunities that are part of this challenge. Certainly, there will be new jobs and new profits as corporations move aggressively to capture the enormous economic opportunities offered by a clean energy future.

Gore also notes that forging the desired global treaty will be much easier once "we give [American] industry a goal and the tools and flexibility to sharply reduce carbon emissions...". Providing "tools" would surely require the sort of public investment Teague and Navin champion.

Articulating that comprehensive message will be much easier if Congress proposes bold legislation that does the needed investment and regulation at the same time.

The energy proposals currently working their way through Congress do invest and regulate. It's just not on a grand enough scale to completely solve the climate crisis.

But congressional leaders fully acknowledge their current legislation is just one step in the right direction, and they plan to offer bigger legislation in the fall, including a "cap-and-trade" strategy to cap carbon emissions.

As I and others have said previously, cap-and-trade can be structured well or structured poorly. Close attention will need to be paid to make sure special interests don't undermine the goals of any such bill.

And a strong cap-and-trade bill will be fortified from special interest attack if it's coupled with the visionary Apollo Alliance program - investing $30 billion a year for 10 years to build a vibrant clean energy economy.
When it's clear that good jobs will be created and affordable clean energy choices will be readily available, the predictable special interest scare tactics will have no place to go.

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