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December 04, 2012

Senate Democrats Seek Climate Change Vote in Defense Authorization Bill

Posted in: Uncategorized

(image: Ennor / flickr)

I haven’t been able to muster up the courage to address the international climate change talks in Doha, Qatar, because the probability of failure is just so great. Nations cannot even agree to a small fund for compensating developing countries that contributed almost nothing to the warming of the planet. The annual price tag? $100 billion, which when divided up among the developed world really isn’t too much to ask, especially because leading nations AGREED TO THIS already at Cancun in 2010. The US and EU object to the fund because they claim it would leave them exposed to open-ended financial claims from over 100 developing countries. The developing countries consider this a red line, as they are paying the greatest price already for climate change and don’t have the means to compensate for their losses.

So that’s a mess. But in the US, we’re seeing at least a little movement away from the idea that climate change is a hoax and toward the reality of a man-made disaster that we must try to fix. The fallout from Hurricane Sandy contributed to this. Just look at these statistics:

For the third straight season there were 19 named storms in the Atlantic, which is the third-highest level of storm activity observed since 1851….

Since 1851, only two hurricane seasons — 2005 and 1933 — have been busier than 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Traditional media has begun talking about natural disasters in the context of climate change. It took a major hit to the top news corridor of New York and DC to deliver the message, but it’s coming through.

And now, Senate Democrats might actually see climate change as a wedge issue, just a couple years after one of their caucus members literally shot climate change legislation in one of his campaign ads.

Senate Democrats are attempting to force a vote on climate change through an amendment to the defense authorization bill.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) amendment calls for the U.S. to “assess, plan for, and mitigate the security and strategic implications of climate change” out of concern for national security.

It is unclear whether the amendment will surface on the floor as senators work to complete the sweeping defense policy bill as soon as Tuesday.

They actually want Republicans to vote for climate denial, it appears. This jibes with an aggressive public hearing last week, where Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee just bashed climate deniers as “dead wrong.”

Indeed, the Quadrennial Defense Review already listed climate change as a national security threat. So this amendment would merely line up the Senate with accepted Pentagon policy. Sadly, it probably won’t pass. But it represents a far less timid stance from Senate Democrats, who actually appear to think they can reap political benefits from this kind of vote.

This won’t stop one particle of carbon pollution from sailing into the atmosphere, unfortunately. But I guess you have to crawl before you can walk.

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