Did D.C.'s blizzard bury climate change legislation?

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Post asked political and environmental experts whether the record snowstorms buried climate change legislation this year. Below, responses from Christine Todd Whitman, Kenneth P. Green and Steven F. Hayward, David G. Hawkins, Douglas E. Schoen, Emily Figdor and Ed Rogers.

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN

Environmental Protection Agency administrator from 2001 to 2003; governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001; chair of the Republican Leadership Council

It shouldn't, but it will. Among the reasons winter storms will make this issue more politically challenging are overreach and simplification -- on both sides of the debate. "An Inconvenient Truth" brought the issue of climate change to the fore, but many of the charts implying that the world's end is near were overly dramatic.

Calling what is happening simply "global warming" is misleading. There will be many changes along the way, including periods of colder temperatures. Some of this semantic debate is important. Using the term "climate change" rather than "global warming" prevents people such as Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) from being able to claim that this is all a hoax.

It is also overreach to imply that humans are the sole cause of climate change. Our activities are exacerbating natural phenomena, making us part of the problem, but the Earth and its climate have been changing since its formation. Because of human activity, things are changing faster than nature or humans can adapt, and the sooner we take steps to slow the changes, the better off we will be.

Scientists have long predicted that one consequence of climate change will be more frequent and more severe storms. They can't predict where and when storms will occur, but their extreme magnitude reflects climate change. Yet let's not forget, even as we dig out from the blizzard, that 10 of the past 11 years were the warmest on record -- that should tell us something.

KENNETH P. GREEN AND STEVEN F. HAYWARD

Resident scholar and F.K. Weyerhaeuser fellow, respectively, at the American Enterprise Institute

The corpus of climate legislation was already cooling before Snowmageddon. The cold wind that buried its chances this year didn't come off the snow burying Washington: It came off horrific unemployment reports, lackluster economic growth, massive Tea Party rallies and vicious town hall meetings. After the breakdown in Copenhagen, the explosion of "Climategate" and the election of Scott Brown, the Democrats' rapid pivot to focus on jobs was inevitable.

There may be an energy bill, or a jobs bill with a lot of "green energy/green jobs" folderol, but that bill won't have a strong climate title. It shouldn't. Given how little influence the United States had on the Copenhagen negotiations, imagine how little we'll have at the next U.N. meeting if we've committed to greenhouse gas controls. Once we've bound ourselves, why would our economic competitors match our level of self-imposed economic bondage? People who think the Chinese are waiting on U.S. leadership are a few shovels short of a clean driveway: The Chinese are waiting for U.S. leadership on climate like they're waiting for U.S. leadership on freedom of speech, religion, assembly and property rights.

DAVID G. HAWKINS


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