The Republicans in Congress in recent years have held few hearings on global warming. But whenever they did, a long line of Democrats on whatever committee was holding the hearing would remark, always emphatically and often angrily, that the time for hearings was long past. The debate was over, we now knew that global warming was the greatest threat ever to face humankind/planet Earth, and that the Congress needed to act decisively immediately. So now that the Democrats have won House and Senate majorities, we can expect immediate action, right? Perhaps not a vote to ratify the Kyoto Protocol–even Senator Kerry recognizes that Kyoto is a dead duck–but at least votes on the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act within the first few hours or days of the 110th Congress.
Alas, I’m sorry to have to report that the backsliding has begun even before the new Congress has been sworn in. Senator Barbara Boxer of California, who will replace Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma as Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced her plans for the committee last week. There will be two (two!) subcommittees with jurisdiction over global warming, one chaired by Senator Boxer herself and the other by Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. She said that the committee won’t mark-up global warming legislation any time soon, but instead will conduct a “very long process of extensive hearings.”
Perhaps Senator Boxer will want to take testimony from the European Union on their progress in meeting their Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Since Kyoto was negotiated in 1997, emissions have been rising more quickly in the EU, which is totally committed to Kyoto, than in the U. S. If the Democrats in Congress are eventually going to try to move global warming legislation, they should at least avoid the expensive mistakes the Europeans are making.