Record snowfall has buried Washington — and along with it, buried the chances of passing global warming legislation this year. Cars are stranded in banks of snow along the streets of the federal capital, and in the corridors of Congress, climate legislation also has been put on ice. Democratic senators say a bill that was once a top priority for the party and for President Barack Obama cannot be dug up again during 2010. Voters are mostly concerned with jobs and the economy. Global warming is at the bottom of their list. And now, on top of that, the paralyzing snowfalls have made the prospect of winning support for a climate bill this year even less likely.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on Tuesday used the D.C. snowstorm to make a political jab, saying that it provides evidence for global warming skeptics. “It’s going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries “uncle,” the conservative Senator tweeted on Twitter. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said the blizzards that have shut down Congress have made it more difficult to argue that global warming is an imminent danger.
“It makes it more challenging for folks not taking time to review the scientific arguments,” said Bingaman, who as the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee has jurisdiction over energy and climate change issues.
“People see the world around them and they extrapolate,” Bingaman said. “I think that it’s hard to see an economy-wide cap-and-trade [proposal] of the type that passed the House could prevail,” he added, though he suggested a more limited alternative could have a better chance….
Some Senate Democrats dismiss the role snow has played in the debate, but they acknowledge there is growing consensus that global warming legislation will not pass in the 111th Congress.
“I don’t think that the climate change with cap-and-trade is going to pass this year,” said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who as Budget chairman is putting together Congress’s annual estimate of how much revenue the government will collect next year and in future years.
The effort to pass global climate change legislation has suffered a succession of blows over the past six months.
One of the most damaging setbacks was the emergence last year of hundreds of private e-mail messages sent among American and British climate scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of East Anglia.
The documents, which were hacked from a university computer server, prompted accusations that researchers may have edited the presentation of data to overstate the threat of warming.
In December, a much-heralded international summit on climate change held in Copenhagen, Denmark, failed to produce the international emissions deal that many environmentalists had wanted. International negotiators did not set any targets for reducing emissions but agreed to a framework that could serve as the basis for an enforceable treaty sometime in the future.
This year, Obama administration officials had to defend a landmark 2007 report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that included the unsubstantiated claim that Himalayan glaciers would vanish by 2035.