Will the Real Scott Brown Please Stand Up

With the health care debate largely over, now is the time to turn the heat up on our Senators to pass a strong clean energy and climate change bill.

Many lawmakers are declaring their support. And thousands of businesses have already signed up to support passing a bill. But we still need a handful of key undeclared senators to get on the bandwagon in support of passing a bill.

In the coming weeks, I am going to blog about these lawmakers so we can encourage them to support legislation that will put Americans to work in good jobs to strengthen our economy, slash dangerous pollution, and strengthen our national security.

The first one in the hot seat is the new Senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown.

Granted, freshly-minted Senator Brown has a lot on his plate right now. He is still trying to find his way around the tunnels from the Russell Senate Office Building to the Capitol. But even as he gets up to speed on all manner of Senate business, Senator Brown has a very important choice to make: Will he join Senator Lindsey Graham and other Republican lawmakers to become a real leader for climate action, or will he buy into the cynicism and complacency that currently paralyzes so much party politics nowadays?

It just depends which Scott Brown comes to the Senate floor to vote.

You see, before the Tea Party threw their support behind him, Senator Brown was dubbed a liberal Republican by nonpartisan fivethirtyeight.com.

He used to belong to Republicans for Environmental Protection. So-called Green Elephants include everyone from former Representative Sherwood Boehlert, whom I am proud to say is on the NRDC Action Fund’s board of trustees, to members of local garden clubs.

Brown reflected those values in 2008 when he voted for Massachusetts to join a regional effort to reduce global warming pollution. At the time he said, "Reducing carbon dioxide emissions in Massachusetts has long been a priority of mine. Passing this legislation is an important step…towards improving our environment."

But in recent comments made during his campaign, Senator Brown was hedging his bets. When asked if he thought global warming was a big "fraud," Brown said:

"It’s interesting. I think the globe is always heating and cooling….I just want to make sure if in fact…the earth is heating up, that we have accurate information, and it’s unbiased by scientists with no agenda. Once that’s done, then I think we can really move forward with a good plan."

I’ll give Senator Brown the benefit of the doubt and consider that he is genuinely concerned about the science of global warming and wasn’t just back-pedaling to get along with the Republican leadership.

In that case, I hope he and his staffers take the time to read the letter signed last week by 2,000 scientiststhat urged Congress to pass a climate bill. Or maybe they will read the statement issued by 19 scientists concluding that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was correct about its Amazon predictions and that the only flaw in the entire 2,880-page report involved Himalayan glaciers. Or maybe they will read the report that was originally commissioned by President George H. W. Bush and released last June in which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Pentagon all agreed that human-induced global warming was "unequivocal."

Right now, Senator Brown isn’t saying much of anything about climate change, but I hope that will change.

I hope the real Scott Brown will stand up–the one who has a sound record on climate change and other environmental issues.

That is the Scott Brown who could become a leader in the bipartisan effort to generate clean energy and create American jobs. That is the Scott Brown who would represent Massachusetts well.

Heather Taylor-Miesle is the director of the NRDC Action Fund. Become a fan on Facebook or Twitter.

Next Up: A Climate Bill

Woo-hoo. The healthcare bill is done. People will see many of the provisions go into place immediately and then they can decide how they feel about these reforms based on realityinstead of frenzied, uninformed rhetoric. Let's just take a moment to recognize this historic occasion.

Unfortunately, just when we see Congress starting to pass bills promised during the last election, we get an unwelcomed glimpse of some of the ugliest parts of politics. It disgusts and frightens me that not only were Members of Congress spat upon as they walked to the Capitol, but lunatics threatened to kill the family members of our elected officials. I am disheartened by the actions of my fellow Americans in the last week but I am not without hope because despite all of these threats, they made real progress and that is something to celebrate.

Healthcare Reforms' passage also clears the way for the Senate to take up climate and they are thankfully wasting no time. According to E&E senior reporter Darren Samuelsohn, "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is inserting himself into the energy and climate debate with a series of meetings [on Tuesday and Wednesday] with key players engaged in the closed-door negotiations."

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is also doubling down on climate saying, "In the wake of health care's passage, we have a strong case to make that this can be the next breakthrough legislative fight. Climate legislation is the single best opportunity we have to create jobs, reduce pollution and stop sending billions overseas for foreign oil from countries that would do us harm."

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the undecideds are starting to vocally call for Congress to consider a bill. Earlier this week, Senator Tom Udall lead a group of 22 moderate Senators in calling on Senator Majority Leader Reid to bring up comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation for a vote. The letter is especially significant because most of these folks hadn't been saying much about climate legislation before. And if those in the middle remained silent, that would have deadened any momentum. But they didn't.

Although none of this guarantees that we will get a bill and it certainly doesn't guarantee that any bill that moves will be strong enough to address the problems, it represents significant progress. Members of Congress have had a hard week so I hope that they go home over the Easter recess and take a few days to recuperate. When they get back, there is much to do and a lot of momentum to build upon.

5 Reasons the Climate Bill is Not Dead

Bumped from the diaries, with timestamp updated. - Nathan

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post

The Weekly Standard ran a cover story this week called, "In Denial: The Meltdown of the Climate Campaign." Despite the cute play on words about who is denying what, the article got it all wrong. Climate change legislation is not dead--not as long as publications like this keep putting it on its cover.

As one experienced senator recently told an NRDC trustee: "I have never seen an important piece of legislation get passed that wasn't declared dead several times before."

All the big bills flirt with death. Why? Because it is really, really hard to move legislation through Congress. I have seen the most straightforward bills--like the ones to name post offices--get slowed to a halt while hand wringing and horse trading goes on.

I have even seen the bills that uphold the status quo get bogged down. I worked on a bill to phase out the exportation of dangerous mercury. The federal government had already started phasing it out, private industry had done the same, and the House of Representatives passed the bill with ease. Yet still it sat on life support in the Senate for months. Everyone thought it was a goner--until it wasn't. It passed in 2008.

Clean energy and climate legislation will be much more transformative than the mercury bill was, and as a result, its birthing process will be even more tortured. But I am not calling it stillborn, and here is why.

There's more...

Why Young People Must Call Congress About Climate - Repeatedly

I grew up in the rural parts of Kentucky and Pennsylvania, two relatively conservative areas. Most of my friends and family are tried-and-true Republicans so it was assumed that I would follow suit. When I started working for a Democratic Congressman in college, one very prominent male figure in my family explained the oddity with a shrug (channeling Churchill) saying "If you are a Republican when you are in college, you have no heart. But if you are a Democrat when you are older, you have no mind."

This weekend, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that kind of thinking could get the G.O.P. in trouble with young people. Indeed, he said one of the central reasons he is reaching across the aisle on clean energy and climate legislation is that he thinks the G.O.P. needs to do a better job of connecting with young voters.

"I have been to enough college campuses to know if you are 30 or younger this climate issue is not a debate. It's a value," Graham said. "From a Republican point of view, we should buy into it and embrace it and not belittle them."

Graham is right on the money: Young people know their future is at stake and this is NOT a partisan issue. On the contrary, if America continues to ignore global warming, this generation will pay the price in the form of a disrupted climate, drought, and increased national security threats not to mention all the refugees who will need help. But if we confront this crisis, young people and old will reap the benefits of more clean energy jobs and robust economic growth.

Anyone who wants to see on-the-ground changes has to translate their climate values into climate action.

Politicians talk about values, but they respond to voters' actions. Young voters, these are two ways you can take action. Here are three things to keep in mind about the way politics works:

1. Young Voters Need to Stay in the Game to Be Taken Seriously
There is often a sense among lawmakers that youthful causes don't need to be taken seriously because youth voters don't tend to vote with a lot of regularity. Many don't think that a dedication to climate change issues translates into electoral activity.

If you don't want to get the brush-off from lawmakers, you need to make it clear that our pleas for clean energy and self-reliance are not a passing fad; it is what will shape your voting patterns for years to come. You have to call Senators to say that you support a clean energy and climate bill. You need to turn out for primary elections to show that climate change is a mobilizing issue. And come November in order to prove that you cannot be dismissed by leaders who ignore climate change and your generation's future - you must vote for the candidates who support clean energy and climate legislation

2. Contacting Your Senator's Office Really Does Work
I have done everything on Capitol Hill from opening mail to working on legislation, and I am here to tell you that yes, intense, coordinated outbursts of citizen action really do make a difference.

People who work on the Hill have to juggle a bazillion issues at once. It isn't easy keeping up-to-date on every single topic, but when voters flood an office with their opinions, Members and their staff stand up and take notice. When I was on the hill it meant I had to do the research and really engage with an issue in order to respond.

3. Repetition is Key
Maybe you have already emailed your Senator in support of a clean energy and climate bill, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it again. Indeed, if you want your action to count, you have to amplify it - repeat it.

So much of politics is about repetition: lawmakers are dealing with so many high-priority issues at once. You have to keep the repetition going in order to break through the noise. I think of it as the slow clap in a stadium. It starts with one person, but slowly the loud, rhythmic pattern catches on and more people join in. After a while, the sound is impossible to ignore.

Now, you know why you should take action. Here are two ways that the NRDC Action Fund is helping you to make your voices heard on clean energy and climate solutions:

The NRDC Action Fund has partnered with Headcount to launch a new website targeting young music lovers. The Musicforaction.org site makes it easy for people to email President Obama, Members of Congress, and local newspaper editors in support of clean energy and climate legislation. Visitors receive free "Best of Bonnaroo" downloads for visiting the site.

NRDC is also joining in a 72-hour call-in campaign with our partners over at Clean Energy Works, in which we are urging all people--but especially young people--to call their Senators' offices in support of the bill. All they have to do is call 1-877-973-7693 to make their voices heard. So, call now!

Maybe our voices won't break through to a particular today because he or she is too caught up with health care or financial regulation or some other issue, but if we keep calling back and emailing over and over again, they will start to hear the chorus for climate action. Now is the moment to add your voice to the mix - be young and take action.

DC Hubbub and What it Means For the Climate Bill

As I sit here writing, I have the White House Health Care Summit running in the background. This is the meeting where President Obama invited Congressional leaders to sit down at the table in front of the American public and talk about how to find common ground over what has become a very divisive, political debate about healthcare.

So far, I am hearing the Republicans say "start over" and Democrats say "we can't wait" ad nauseum. I say, "Lock them in the room, get out a piece of paper and pencils, and start writing."

But despite the discouraging aspects of this Blair House rhetorical rumble, I think there are a few signs of hope -- and those signs may bode well for action on clean energy and climate change.

Transparency. As annoying as I find much of the actual healthcare summit oratory, I love that this speechifying smackdown is being done on TV. I thought both sides articulated their views very well and I think that those watching walked away with a better understanding of where everyone stands. It was a very thoughtful debate. (I also think that a lot of their points led to a collective shrug from the public because, well, I hate to break it to them but they kind of agreed most of the time. It leads me to ask - so, what is the hold up? But, back to the point.) I also thought it was great last month whenPresident Obama spent a significant amount of time debating the Republicans at their retreat about everything from clean energy and climate legislation to foreign policy. Once again, the public was given the opportunity to understand the issue with fewer soundbites and more substance. I think that this trend toward a transparent, televised process would bode well for a climate bill.

Whether it is the grossly exaggerated claims of consumer cost or the inaccurate, overstated accusations of scientific error, climate legislation has been seriously wounded by the 30-second misinformed soundbite. A televised debate would hopefully reveal the very real benefits of addressing climate change and properly explain why a cap on global warming pollution is necessary not only to ensure a cleaner environment - but to give companies the incentive they need to invest in clean energy technologies , create jobs, and make us less dependent on oil-rich, terror-sympathizing countries.

Signs of Bipartisanship. With healthcare, just having the two sides argue in public is a move toward bipartisanship, but on climate, folks from both parties have already taken the step of locking themselves in a room together with paper and pencils. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been working with Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) for weeks as they draft a comprehensive climate and energy bill. His willingness to put politics aside is the first step towards finding a solution.

 

And there are other positive signs. Last week, five Senate Republicans voted with Democrats to overcome a procedural hurdle on the jobs bill. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kit Bond (R-MO) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio)--

voted to end a filibuster so that the bill, a $13 billion program to give companies a break from paying Social Security taxes for the remainder of the year on new employees, could get a final vote.

In almost all ways, comparing the jobs bill to energy and climate legislation is like comparing apples and oranges. However, in the way that may matter most - getting moderates from both parties to vote their minds instead of their parties - it opened the door to bipartisanship. That is hopefully where we can resume building momentum on climate.

Signs of Accountability. One of the greatest things that started today in tandem with the healthcare summit is a new age of accountability. The visionaries over at The Sunlight Foundation provided its own interactive broadcast of the proceedings over the Internet. Broadcasting over the web isn't the revolutionary part -- what is really terrific is that as each politician spoke, Sunlight would post campaign contributions that the person speaking has received, "their connections to lobbyists and industry, personal finances, and key votes that the leaders have made on health care in the past."

As these Members spoke, you could learn about their ties and it was fascinating to see the dots so clearly connected. Now, having worked for Members of Congress, I can certainly tell you that elected officials don't always vote they way their donors ask. However, it was incredibly enlightening to have that background available as they spoke. In a world where there are approximately eight healthcare lobbyists for each Member of Congress, it was very good to be able to really view the playing field and now the full scope of influence.

Greater accountability is also catching fire in the clean energy debate where bloggers, public interest groups, and media outlets are starting to ask who has their pockets lined by big polluters. Just go to http://www.polluterharmony.org and you can see who has found their "true political love" with dirty fuels. By putting all the pieces together, we can get a fuller picture of someone's intentions and that can only lead to better legislation that is written in the interest of the people.

 

In many ways, Washington should co-opt Chicago's title as the "Windy City" after today's healthcare summit. But there is reason to hope. Transparency, bipartisanship, and accountability will hopefully emerge as long-term trends that offer hope to every progressive issue. 

Why Climate Change Deniers Should Still Support Green Energy

Last week, two conservative Republican Senators, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Barrasso of Wyoming, called for an independent probe of the IPCC -- the international scientific body that summarizes the latest climate science -- and asked the Senate to halt all climate action until that happens.

The senators claim that because there were some errors included in the IPCC's 2007report -- for instance, how quickly the Himalayan glaciers might melt -- the entire phenomenon of climate change must now be questioned.

I am not a scientist by training, but even I know their reasoning doesn't hold up. The few errors that have been uncovered in the thousand pages or so of the IPCC report have nothing to do with the science of whether and why climate change is occurring. Instead, those errors are about a few specific projections about what might happen in the future.

Saying we should discard the entire thrust of climate scientist because of a couple of sloppy projections is like saying the concept of evaporation is in doubt because a handful of scientists mistakenly said Lake Mead evaporates faster than we thought.

Senator Inhofe and Barrasso are trying to use this excuse to ignore the IPCC (which stands for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). But it won't be so easy to get around the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Foundation, the Pentagon, the National Intelligence Council, the World Health Organization, and the CIA.

Each and every one of these world-class institutions has concluded that climate change is a serious threat.

But let's face it, people like Inhofe will never be persuaded by scientific argument. Climate denial is an article of faith for them, and I don't believe in arguing about people's religion. 
But I do argue politics, and on the issues that matter most to Americans right now -- jobs, the economy, and security -- climate action makes good political sense.

So even if Inhofe's posturing about the IPCC gives some Senators pause, they can't ignore the following facts.

Fact: Climate Action Will Create Jobs
Every senator running for reelection this year has one question to answer: where are the jobs? Voters are hungry for opportunities, and a clean energy and climate bill will deliver them.

Clean energy jobs are growing 2.5 times as fast as traditional jobs right now. Indeed, according to economists at the University of California, the climate bill that passed the House of Representatives last June could generate nearly 2 million new jobs.

Why so many opportunities? Clean energy industries require more people than those in the fossil fuel industry. In fact, for every $1 million spent on clean energy, we can create 3 to 4 times as many jobs as if we spent the same amount on fossil fuels.

Some senators have the defeatist attitude that China will capture the clean energy market because of its low wages. In fact, A recent study by the EPIA (for which Barclay's vetted the data) found that 75 percent of all solar energy jobs are in installation and maintenance and the trend is similar for other clean energy technologies.

You can't outsource the job of building a wind farm or making an office more energy efficient.

But here is another fact: the only way to get these jobs benefits is to pass a clean energy and climate bill. Without that bill, businesses don't get the incentive to invest in job-heavy, low-carbon energy sources. And without those jobs, Senators will have a much harder time talking to their voters.

Fact: Climate Action Will Generate Economic Growth
Many economists believe that we need a new engine for growth. We need individuals and companies to invest in something on a massive scale in order to instill confidence and create jobs.

Clean energy and climate solutions fit the bill. Annual investments in the global clean energy market could reach $106 to $230 billion a year in 2020 and as much as $424 billion in 2030. What other sector is offering that kind of growth right now?

But in order to unleash private investment, companies need the right incentives. Peter Darbee, the head of PG&E, wrote in the Capitol Hill newspaper Politico that America's utilities need about $2 trillion over the next 20 years to modernize electrical infrastructure. But, he said, companies are delaying capital spending because, while they know climate legislation is coming, they don't know when and they don't know what it will look like. In the meantime, they are holding onto their cash and postponing job creation.

Darbee urged Congress to pass a climate bill because, he wrote, it will "clear the way for many companies to accelerate near-term investment and job creation. Longer term, it would enhance America's economic competitiveness and national security."

Fact: Climate Action Will Strengthen Our National Security
The Christmas bomber put security back on the list of top priorities for many American voters. It was a terrible reminder that distant unrest can wash up on our shores.

And that's what the Department of Defense is worried about when it comes to climate change. A few weeks ago, the Pentagon released its Quadrennial Defense Review--its official assessment of military risks--and it called climate change a threat to national security that "may spark or exacerbate future conflicts," and labeled global warming "an accelerant of instability." The Central Intelligence Agency and the National Intelligence Council came to similar conclusions.

If we stay on our current path --ignoring climate change and continuing to fuel it with our oil addiction--the risks will only grow. Americans spent a record $450 billion on imported oil in 2008--$1,400 for every man, woman, and child in this country. This money was sent overseas to places like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria. Do you think those regimes have our best interests in mind?

Retired Navy Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn explained it like this: "Our growing reliance on fossil fuels jeopardizes our military and affects a huge price tag in dollars and potentially lives... In our judgment, a business-as-usual approach constitutes a threat to our national security."

A clean energy and climate bill will disarm that threat, protect our servicemen and women, and keep billions of dollars here in America.

Senators Inhofe and Barrasso can argue over the science as much as they want. The scientific community can and will defend the science behind climate change. While they have that debate, there are lots of additional, incredibly important reasons to get started.... So, let's not wait.

[This blog post was originally posted at The Markup]

Bullies and Bystanders

The Climate Bullies

When I was in 6th grade, I fell victim to the school bully. I was new to the school and became an easy target for an 8th grade girl with a bad attitude. She picked on me endlessly while other kids stood by and watched. I was humiliated, scared and completely at a loss about what I should do.

Thankfully I had eventually made some decent friends and one day when the resident bully showed up one of them stepped in and told her to stop. Others quickly backed her up; the bully went away and never bothered me again.

My experience with bullying is far from unique. Bullies get away with their behavior over and over again....In our schools, in our offices and even in Congress.

What gives bullies their power? It certainly isn't the victim. And it isn't even the bully. Instead, those with the most power, the ones who can usually make the bullying stop, are the people on the sidelines.

I have been thinking about this phenomenon as I watch the climate debate in the Senate. I see the climate bill itself (and those of us who are pushing for it) in the role of victim; the fossil fuel industry and the Tea Party are the bullies. The bystanders in this situation are the Senators who aren't doing much of anything on climate either way. It isn't hard to spot them, but it has been hard to get them to stand up.

In the face of a crisis like global warming, we don't need quiet witnesses. We need bold heroes to step in, stop the fight, and solve the problem. We need lawmakers to say that now is the time to confront the crisis and jumpstart America's economy.

It all starts with standing up to the bullies.

Consider the Tea Party. These are the bullies who spun health care reform - something that is still supported by the majority of Americans - into a sordid deal. Now they are going after climate legislation.

At the Tea Party Convention in Nashville last week, global warming skeptic Steve Milloycriticized Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for working with Democratic Senator John Kerry (D-MA) on a bipartisan climate bill. Then he went so far as to call supporters of strong climate legislation "bad people" with questionable sanity and morals.

And then there are the fossil fuel industries. They bully with money: oil and gas companiesspent at least $154 million on lobbying in 2009. That doesn't even take into account their political donations.

Intimidation and deep pockets are powerful forces, but I do hope those senators who are standing by on climate -- many of whom intend to ultimately support a bill -- realize that this is an opportunity to take a bold stand, to support strong legislation that represents our best tool for generating 2 million new jobs and making America more secure.

Voters love problem solvers; passing clean energy and climate legislation would give senators a chance to fix our economy, clean up our environment, and strengthen our national security.

For instance, Americans spent a record $450 billion on imported oil in 2008. That's $1,400 for every man, woman, and child in this country sent to places like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria. Passing a clean energy and climate bill would keep a good chunk of that money invested in America.

These are the kind of solutions Americans will vote for right now.

I hope the senators who have been on the sidelines will step in on behalf of all Americans so the bullies don't have the power anymore. If they continue to sit and do nothing, they will in their own way be as much to blame as the deniers, because both of them are impeding progress. The deniers do it noisily with malice, the bystanders do it quietly and often with good intentions, but both are doing a disservice to our nation.

No one said solving the biggest crisis of our time would be easy, but someone needs to stand up to the bullies. 

 

POTUS Speak Up

Five Things to Say about Clean Energy in Your Address

It is that time of year again. This Wednesday, January 27, 2010, the President will glide down the aisle in the House of Representatives, greeted by thunderous applause, and encounter the usually more dignified elected officials in a slightly teen-bopper, Beatles-esque-frenzy, practically climbing over each other to shake his hand.

There's more...

Brown's Win and the Climate Vote

As we all drink our morning coffee and digest what this latest change-up means for the Senate, let me be the first to say - I continue to be hopeful that the Senate will take action on climate change.

The signs of momentum for a clean energy and climate bill outweigh any signs that come from the Massachusetts special election.

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Numbers Game

Tell POTUS That This Is Our Moment

In case you are tired of making your own New Year's resolutions, President Obama would like you to help him set his. He is inviting Americans to tell him what we think the administration's priorities should be for 2010.

There's more...

Diaries

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