Environmental Outliers

Today’s Environmental Outliers:

  • Reuters discusses the likely policy alternatives for Congress in dealing with climate change legislation in 2010.
  • Environmental ministers from BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) countries met in India to discuss the post Copenhagen scenario on climate change.
  • Pew finds global warming ranks last in immediate priorities for the U.S. government to tackle.
  • The lead climate change negotiator from China notes he has an “open mind” on whether climate change is caused by humans .
  • Bill Gates discusses his concerns that funding for climate policies will come at the expense of health funding.
  • Amy Harder gives an assessment of President Obama’s efforts on energy and environmental policies.
  • The Wall Street journal opines on the continuing glacier-gate controversy

Glacial Politics: The IPCC and Climate Change

A slow-moving storm is brewing over a recent apology from the IPCC due to  an erroneous climate prediction of Himalayan glaciers melting by 2035. As this story unfolds there are multiple perspectives for what caused the controversy:

Dr. Murari Lal used the claim to pressure governments into action.

Dr. Syed Hasnain, who was the source of this info, was misquoted and the IPCC process for disseminating information on climate change is driven more by political considerations than it is by scientific evidence.

Nevertheless, politics appears to be behind claims made by the IPCC as well as by critics of the process. Further, an important lesson from this case is that it exemplifies some of the problems policymakers face when trying to shape public policy based on scientific evidence. No matter how certain the politics may be around this issue, the uncertainty principle continues to be a major factor in developing policies that relate to climate change.

U.S. Senate and Carbon Emissions: A Disapproval Resolution

Efforts to codify carbon emissions reductions by the U.S. government continue to be stalled in Congress. Senator Murkowski (R, AK) has introduced a disapproval resolution in order to block the EPA from implementing regulatory measures to reduce carbon emissions. The resolution is a little-known procedural motion used by the senator as a means to block action by the EPA to set emission targets. The benefit of the move is that it allows for an expedited process in the U.S. Senate, limits debate on the issue, and restricts the amendment process.

But the problem for the GOP in using this strategy is there may not be enough senators to support this motion. The way the procedure works is the disapproval motion is referred to the committee of jurisdiction (Environment and Public Works Committee). The process ensures that if the EPW committee does not report the resolution within 20 calendar days, the resolution can be dislodged if 30 Senators sign a petition to have it discharged from the committee. If this is done, the resolution is brought to the Senate floor for consideration and is not subject to a cloture vote to proceed. Earlier headcounts of supporters of climate change legislation (currently at 42) indicate the resolution will likely fail. The likely vote on the resolution would be along party lines making it very difficult for the GOP to muster 51 votes (11 Democrats would be needed) to pass the measure. More to come…

Science and Politics: A Natural Pair?

I’ve linked to some interesting posts on the relationship of science and politics in environmental policy that are worth reading.

Can policy actors try to extrapolate truth from scientific findings?

Has Climategate changed the public’s perceptions of the science of climate change?

Has the use of scientific findings in developing public policy become too partisan?

Do policymakers ask too much of scientists?

How much disclosure should scientists provide when presenting scientific findings to politicians?