The Dernogalizer

December 9, 2008

Column on Climate Legislation

So I have my weekly column out today. Due to word constraints, I couldn’t tell people what they can do over the next year to make a difference. The best move could be to find out who your Congressman and US Senators are, depending on where you live. Then at the least make a phone call and write a letter telling them what you want. Scheduling a lobby meeting with their office would be great as well.

In Maryland, the main target should be Steny Hoyer since he is the House Majority Leader. It’s a very powerful postion responsible for setting the legislative agenda, and being the deal broker on votes for a bill. If you live in his district, do everything you can to let him know you want to him to make climate change legislation a priority. His website with contact info is below, as well as my column.

The latest round of United Nations climate talks is coming to a close in the next few days in Poznan, Poland. These negotiations, taking place between countries all around the world, are going to lay the foundation for a final deal to be made at the end of 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The need for a strong treaty involving both developed and developing nations is crucial. A failure to replace the previous treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, would put the world on a devastating path of unregulated and unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions.

President-elect Barack Obama (D) has given strong assurances to the countries in Poznan right now that, when he takes office, the United States will re-engage these talks with the objective of leading the world in cooperation on climate change. Rhetoric from Obama and eight years too many of Bush have skyrocketed expectations from foreign countries that the United States is going to be able to sign a strong climate treaty in Copenhagen. There’s a major problem, though. The reality is it’s all but impossible for Obama to get the Senate to ratify a global climate treaty. You need two-thirds of the Senate to go along, and the odds of getting 67 senators in a sharply partisan institution to vote ‘yes’ is not a winning proposition. It would be devastating if the country agreed to a treaty in Copenhagen and then was unable to get it ratified by the Senate. The international agreement would likely disintegrate, harming the United States’ standing in the world and sending emissions spiraling out of control.

We’ve seen this happen before. Former President Bill Clinton agreed in international talks to the Kyoto Protocol, and along with former Vice President Al Gore, he brought it back for consideration by the Senate, which never put it to a vote. This was embarrassing and made Kyoto grossly inadequate and ineffective. What’s the point of emissions reductions if the biggest emitter isn’t on board? To this day, the U.S. is the only developed country whose government has not moved to ratify Kyoto.

Obama needs to learn from past mistakes. There’s a way to turn these climate talks into walk. We need to pass a strong climate change bill in our country before talks in Copenhagen finish. A national bill is more politically feasible than ever before with a new Congress and a progressive president leading the charge. Obama would only need 60 votes in the Senate for a bill.

This is how we can give assurances to our European partners that the U.S. will be able to follow up on what it says it will do. This is how we can break the inaction from China and India. This is how we can restore the United States’ standing in the world. Congress historically moves slowly unless an issue is on the tip of constituents’ tongues. We need to let them hear it, including in Maryland.

Right now we have a situation where everybody is waiting for everybody. The world is watching. All eyes are on us. It’s about time we put our best foot forward.

Matt Dernoga is a junior government and politics major. He can be reached at



  1. […]  They think there will be a deal in the fall, just before Copenhagen.  This is huge.  I wrote a column last fall about whats at stake with international negotiations, and what the US has to do.  I still firmly […]

    Pingback by US-China Climate Deal!?!?! « The Dernogalizer — May 19, 2009 @ 11:22 pm | Reply

  2. […] think there is one sentence which sums up the need for the US to pass a strong climate bill here by Copenhagen in order for this to […]

    Pingback by The Global Treaty Landscape « The Dernogalizer — June 2, 2009 @ 4:41 pm | Reply

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