18 September 2009

This Won't Play in Peoria

The EU Ambassador to the United States, John Bruton, threatens the U.S. with disapproval (from the FT Energy Source) if its health care debate pushes cap and trade legislation into 2010:

“It is suggested that the U.S. Senate may not, after all, deal with the climate change issue until next year, when the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen is over and the delegates have gone home. If this were to happen, it would open the United States to the charge that it does not take its international commitments seriously, and that these commitments will always take second place to domestic politics.

The United States is just one of the 190 countries coming to this Conference. But the United States emits 25 percent of all the greenhouse gases that the Conference is trying to reduce. Is the U.S. Senate really expecting all the other countries to make a serious effort on climate change at the Copenhagen Conference in the absence of a clear commitment from the United States?

Of course we must be realistic about what politics can and cannot achieve, and temper our ambitions accordingly. And this applies to international politics just as much as it does to the legislative agenda of the U.S. Senate.I submit that asking an international Conference to sit around looking out the window for months, while one chamber of the legislature of one country deals with its other business, is simply not a realistic political position.”

I don't think that statements like this are going to go over well in the U.S. -- either in Congress among both parties, or in Congressional districts. The statements may even be what we call in the U.S. "bulletin board material."

Update: Thanks to reader Sharon F. for the link explaining the allusion in the title: will it play in Peoria?

11 comments:

Skip said...

"Is the U.S. Senate really expecting all the other countries to make a serious effort on climate change at the Copenhagen Conference in the absence of a clear commitment from the United States?"

No, of course not. Nobody expects any of the countries to make a serious effort on climate change under any circumstances, but they'd all love to see the U.S. restrict itself unilaterally as an economic opponent.

Not Whitey Bulger said...

Well said, Skip. The vast majority of countries signing any climate agreement will do so at no required cost to themselves, and the rest will all fail to meet the requirements they do agree to.

Imagine that you're in a lifeboat with a group of people, and it's taking on water and sinking. Would you sit there and wait to drown if someone refused to help bail, or would you just start bailing? If anyone actually believed the apocalyptic hype, they'd just cut their carbon output as far as they could right now, regardless of what anyone else was doing. The global climate system doesn't care who does what when. All that matters - if you do believe the hype - is total carbon added to the atmosphere. Europe and the rest of the world don't need the United States to start doing the right thing.

Bob said...

"The United States is just one of the 190 countries coming to this Conference. But the United States emits 25 percent of all the greenhouse gases that the Conference is trying to reduce."

So what? Our economy produces more than most countries, too!

Sharon F. said...

Maybe we should make the argument that climate impacts require a strong health care system as a foundation for our social resilience so that our society can adapt to climate change?
Certainly if the choice is people dying today vs. tomorrow.. today is more compelling. Who could disagree?

Dean said...

Other countries have politics too, and the statement may relate to issues "back home".

Many countries have signed agreements with significant up-front costs to themselves. None are completely meeting those goals, but some have made progress.

Maurice Garoutte said...

Ambassador Bruton’s comments are based on the underlying assumption that climate change should be one of the most important issues to the American people. It’s not.

I especially liked the phrase: “If this were to happen, it would open the United States to the charge that it does not take its international commitments seriously…”. We could ask the Poles about that after canceling the missile defense system last week.

Andrew said...

Hm, I never took you for an elitist Roger ("Peoria", really?).

Sharon F. said...

Andrew, check this out.
http://www.peoria.com/community/will_it_play_in_peoria.php

I also appreciated Roger's referring to the "bulletin board" in another post.. I would not have a clue to that sports reference without those links..

Joel Upchurch said...

Why don't they just cancel the conference until the United States figures out what they are going to do? They can't get their deposit back on their hotel rooms?

I've just about given up on Congress and I'm ready to let the EPA have a go at it. The total fecklessness of Congress on the issue of coal alone renders any legislation useless. Even if the EPA regulations are bad, at least they might be intelligible.

I've come to the conclusion, that having lawyers handle climate change is about as smart as having climatologists handle your divorce.

Eric said...

The Copenhagen conference will deliver very weak limits because the US senate will accept nothing else. Clinton/Gore were pushed into signng Kyoto by Enron but the senate voted 95-0 against ratification. There is no point in doing that again.

The recent EU conference at Poznan also passed weak targets because the Germans and Poles dug in their heels against the British.

ourchangingclimate said...

I'm curious though:

If this statement doesn't go over well in the US, how should it have been framed?

If the US doesn't step up to the plate, chances are that no decent agreement can be made in Copenhagen. So it's entirely logical and needed to put pressure on the US to do their part. How should such a message be framed in order to be heard, if not the way Bruton did?

Bart

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