Those still hoping global leaders will band together in the face of climate change have found little justification for their optimism lately. First, the Copenhagen negotiations were, by most accounts, a spectacular failure. Now the leader of those negotiations, Yvo de Boer, has resigned as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. For the time being, an international problem lacks an international leader.
The United States, which many feel should be leading the march, has failed to produce even a national strategy for climate change. Thatâ€™s spelled disaster for international negotiations like Copenhagen. And given Republicansâ€™ hostility to climate science, and the White Houseâ€™s decision to spend its political capital on health care, the situation is not likely to change any time soon.
Still, many see a glimmer in the recent (and bipartisan!) legislation introduced by Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell and her Republican colleague Susan Collins.
The recently introduced CLEAR Act (Carbon Limits and Energy for Americaâ€™s Renewal), referred to as â€œcap-and-dividend,â€ would set a limit on carbon emissions. Permits would then be sold to energy producers and importers, with the revenue divided among US citizens. Cantwell predicts a family of four would receive roughly $1000 a yearâ€”more than offsetting the anticipated increase in energy prices.
And there are reasons to expect some Republican support; conservative magazines like The Economist are praising the idea for its ability to â€œharness the power of the market to cut emissionsâ€; at 40 pages, it represents a concise yet comprehensive strategy; unlike â€œcap-and-trade,â€ it eliminates speculative carbon trading.
Of course, one should never underestimate D.C.â€™s ability to overlook or undercut common sense answers to difficult questions. But if we want to see the international community tackle climate change, the US will have to lead the way at home. The CLEAR Act is, at present, the most appealing means of doing that.