As we all know, the Republicans now control the U.S. House of Representatives and have improved their Senate numbers, which means that efforts to control global warming are now dead for at least the dying days of the 111th Congress.
John Boehner (R. Ohio), House Speaker-designate, and Mitch McConnell (R. KY), the top Republican in the Senate, outlined their strategy for the remainder of President Obama's first term: "His party's main goal is denying Obama re-election." Thus, there is no way that the Republicans will allow Obama a legislative accomplishment on global warming or energy.
Last December, countries participating in the United Nation's climate summit in Mexico failed to agree on an international treaty that would have required them to cut greenhouse gas emissions. It is unlikely that there will be agreement on binding cuts in greenhouse gases.
President Obama has abandoned legislation that would cap emissions through a carbon market because Republicans consider it a tax on business. Obama may attempt to bypass Congress by regulating greenhouse gases through federal agencies. However, there is a proposed bill pending in the Senate that would suspend for two years the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, petroleum refineries, factories, and other "stationary sources." Passage is unclear during the lame duck session, but once the Republicans control the House next year, they are expected to push to completely ban EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.
For years, the global warming deniers have engaged in an effective disinformation campaign that undermined efforts to pass a clean energy bill that might have curbed our addiction to oil, resulting in cleaner air, more renewable energy, a stronger dollar, and more innovative industries. Even if 999 scientists out of 1,000 agreed that the main cause of the increase in global average temperatures in recent history is not because of any natural cycle—although natural cycles do exist—it is because of man, the deniers would probably seize on the two who do not agree. Senator James Inhofe (R. Okl) and Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R. Cal) probably represent the views of global warming debunkers. Senator Inhofe called "the threat of catastrophic global warming the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." And Representative Rohrabacher called the science behind global warming "emotional junk science." Even that eminent scientist Sarah Palin called global warming studies "snake oil science."
The disinformation campaign has had its effect on public opinion. According to a November 2010 Rasmussen survey, only 38 percent of voters think global warming is caused by human activity, while 45 percent say it’s caused by long-term planetary trends. Just seven percent think there is some other cause for global warming, while 10 percent are not sure.
The danger to our planet is real. The combination of flooding, heat waves and droughts this past summer were taken by most researchers trained in climate analysis to show that weather extremes are getting worse. And the long-term warming trend over the last century has been well-established. Scientists who study the climate are projecting substantial disruptions in water supplies, agriculture, ecosystems, and coastal communities.
Is there a scientific consensus on global warming? In the scientific field of climate studies, which includes many disciplines, a consensus can be demonstrated by the number of scientists who have stopped arguing about what is causing climate change. So a consensus in science is different from a political one. There is no vote. Scientists just give up arguing because the sheer weight of consistent evidence is too compelling, the tide too strong to swim against any longer. “...the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.” In other words, more than 95 percent of scientists working in the disciplines contributing to studies of our climate, accept that climate change is almost certainly caused by human activities. But you and I know that Republicans and some energy-state Democrats will focus on the 5 percent who do not accept this consistent, compelling evidence.
We can expect a continued heads-in-the-sand, do-nothing Congress on global warming for the next two years and possibly beyond. Congress will fiddle while the earth burns.