Paul Krugman, writing in Today's New York Times picks up on our decision to oppose the Waxman-Markley bill, which will bring cap and trade emission regulation to the US economy. It is, he says, a choice between doing something, and doing nothing, and he's on the side of something must be done.
Well so are we, but just because this is something doesn't mean it must be done. The biggest problem is the bill's level of ambition. Getting US emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, which the Kyoto treaty would describe as a cut of 0% isn't even close to enough. The science demands that developed nations as a group come up with a cut of around 40% by 2020. Thanks to George Bush's inaction the US probably can't deliver much more than 23%. (You can read how in our Energy Revolution scenario.)
A US target of 0% could be fatal to the UN negotiations at the climate summit in Copenhagen this year. The summit is our best remaining chance to avoid catastrophic climate change, but if one of the world's biggest polluters turns up with a bid of zero that sets a low bar for everyone else.
What can be done about this? Well as my colleagues in the USA note the problem is with conservative Democrats who've held out for low targets and a giveaway of emission credits to polluting industry. This, as Krugman notes is a means to "transfer wealth from taxpayers to industry". Or, 'paying people to make climate change worse' as it's known.
There is another option though. In this excellent post at Daily Kos, science blogger Devil's Tower describes how political support for big industry comes from the states with the highest emisssions, and puts forward this neat suggestion.
"Want real progress on the fight against pollution and global warming? It won't come by giving in to the demands to carbon-state legislators to get a compromise that really means a bill too weak to be effective. Instead we need to convince carbon-state voters. We need to offer them a package of benefits that will provide education, environmental restoration, and a promise of jobs."
So instead of transferring money from taxpayers to industry, you'd move it the other way. The politicians would still be looking after their constituents, the polluters would be paying and the planet would be a step closer to being saved. That's the deal Waxman needs to put on the table, and it's the deal President Obama needs to take responsibility for.
You can get involved in the fight for a better bill here. We can't change the science, it's time to change the politics.