I am blogging live from a Brookings panel discussion on Global Warming and the 2008 Presidential elections (and yes, it is about as exciting as it sounds).
There are policy representatives from the Clinton, Edwards, Obama, and McCain campaigns. They are in violent agreement, depressingly so in the case of McCain.
Some general observations:
· “The science is settled” is a mantra. It’s pretty undeniable that emitting enough CO2 raises temperatures, but that’s not the same thing as saying that apocalyptic scenarios for global devastation are at all realistic. Allowing these campaigns to argue with the straw man of “global warming is a hoax” is not smart for their potential opponents, because it allows them to get completely off the hook of confronting what the risks are, and simply tell scary stories instead.
· They are all in agreement that we should have an aggressive cap-and-trade system in place for carbon. It’s pretty funny to hear the Democratic campaigns waving away the not-so-hot results of carbon trading so far in Europe because “we’re Americans and are netter at this than those European clowns.”
· Nobody had any compelling answer to the question of how a policy of the US limiting emissions is going to get China and India to go along beyond the second mantra that “we need to re-establish our credibility”
· I feel like this meeting is being catered by the Free Lunch Café. Every campaign is pitching (without saying it clearly) the idea that we’re not going to give up income because of these proposals, and the economy will be better off once we get decisions about energy out of the hands of the idiots that run American businesses and put them in the hands of Congressmen, professors and think thank experts.
· There is a belief on the part of all the campaigns that the electorate, or more importantly the typical presidential election swing voter, will support expensive measures to address this issue. Lots of polling data says otherwise.
It seems to me that a smart opponent running against any of these campaigns has a huge opening to take the straw man off the table, and get down to debating the specific proposal of cap-and-trade in terms of how much does it cost and what we will get.