Now that the Democrats have had a success on health care reform, my thinking turns naturally to what this means for climate change legislation. In one sense, it looks as though an obstacle has been removed. Important as it was to reform health care (and imperfect as the solution that has emerged is), it had clearly become the top priority of the administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress. That inevitably meant less attention for an issue that will ultimately be much more important, given that it may substantially affect the habitability of the whole planet.
While Democrats in Congress may now have a bit of confidence, born from success, and a bit more openness in their schedules, there does seem to be reason to think that climate change legislation will be a very tough sell. Health care only seems to have passed because Senate agreement was secured while the Democrats still had their slim super-majority. Furthermore, while Congresspeople may thunder on about how health care reform will prove the death of liberty, that remarkably science-averse institution will find far more reason to complain about anything that restricts the emission of greenhouse gases. Regional interests are certainly a lot stronger on this matter, though it is ironic that the regions that suffer most from the environmental effects of things like coal mining nonetheless have representatives who will fight tooth and claw to protect that filthy industry.
What do readers think? Will success on health care embolden Democrats, or make them even more timid on account of upcoming mid-term elections? Is there any change of Waxman-Markey or some similar cap-and-trade bill succeeding in Obama’s first term? What about a more novel carbon pricing scheme, such as one based on tax-and-dividend? What about regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)? Will that provide an alternative to Congressional action, or will it not prove a potent enough tool to make a difference? Also, might Congress close off that option as well?