One thing that global warming deniers really hate is being told that the debate is over. Of course, that's because the "debate" is just a stall -- at this point, they add nothing to the science and only try to find fault with the consensus. Like creationists, they only attack the science, while offering no evidence of their own. If you want proof the debate is over, then consider that even the deniers have stopped debating. But it's one thing to recognize that the debate is over and another to stop it. The Environmental Protection Agency recently took that step.
The EPA has the authority to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. And they plan to. At the end of last month, the EPA rejected petitions to reconsider the effect of carbon dioxide on the climate, saying the arguments presented were without merit. While the petitioners argued that the ginned-up "Climategate" was a good reason to back off research that showed global warming has a human cause, the EPA -- like every other scientific body that had investigated the issue -- found that the critics, not the scientists, were misrepresenting the science. The final word from the EPA; the debate is over. CO2 is a pollutant in need of regulation, the EPA is the regulatory agency to do it, and you get to shut up about it.
"Climate change is already happening, and human activity is a contributor," the agency said in a statement. "The global warming trend over the past 100 years is confirmed by three separate records of surface temperature, all of which are confirmed by satellite data. Beyond this, evidence of climate change is seen in melting ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, shifting precipitation patterns, and changing ecosystems and wildlife habitats." It's over, we're done here, please close the door on your way out.
Sadly, the EPA's strong response may have provided cover to allow this to happen:
[Union of Concerned Scientists:]
The Senate will adjourn for its August recess today without passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill -- inaction the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) called "infuriating, distressing and inexcusable."
"Too many senators put the oil and coal industries' near-term financial considerations ahead of the environment, public health, national security and economic future of the nation," said Kevin Knobloch, president of UCS. "It's distressing that the oil and coal lobbies, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and conservative news media apparently have an iron grip on our elected officials."
If the Senate fails to act -- as is expected -- it is paramount that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proceed with its plan to limit power plant, transportation, industrial and agricultural heat-trapping emissions, Knobloch said. UCS will continue to fight efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act and prevent the EPA from setting pollution standards.
There's probably not much danger of "efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act and prevent the EPA from setting pollution standards" succeeding in the short-term. Republicans are concentrating almost solely on sabotaging economic recovery to increase their chances in November. They don't give a damn about climate change. At least, not right now. In fact, all evidence points to Republicans lying low on issues other than the economy. A lot of their candidates are way outside the mainstream on other issues, so they want to limit debate to safe territory. Get off the scripted talking points and these people have a habit of wandering off into crazy land. After November, the GOP will gear up for 2012, so most of their legislative efforts will be aimed at making the president look bad. Again, wedge issues seem to be losing their "wedginess" and the GOP will probably steer clear of anything other than making the president seem ineffective.
So we've got an EPA willing to regulate CO2 as a pollutant, we've got a Republican Party all but abandoning the warming deniers... What do we need climate legislation for?
[Think Progress, 2008:]
In December, EPA administration Stephen Johnson rejected "California's long-standing request for a waiver from federal law to be able to implement its own landmark regulations to slash greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles."
According to new documents released today by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Johnson, a political appointee, overruled his own staff, who in October recommended that California receive the waiver. According to the case laid out in briefing slides, EPA staff believed that legally, the agency could not deny California's waiver...
The EPA, like any other executive branch agency, is not apolitical. If the president says, "We don't want CO2 regulated," then CO2 emissions will not be regulated. And, as the Bush administration so ably demonstrated, they can go out of their way to keep states from regulating CO2 on their own. As they do with constitutional principles, Republicans like to talk a lot about the importance of state and local control in governance, but they really don't walk the walk. They like it until they don't.
We need climate legislation because repealing a law is a lot harder than Republicans would have their base believe. And because we can't count on having an administration unwilling to be stupid about climate science forever. Sooner or later, an idiot or an ideologue is going to be sitting in the Oval Office and the EPA's ability to regulate carbon dioxide isn't going to mean squat.
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