US climate fears mount, but political action wanes – ‘We still do not see any prospect for major legislation in Congress’Posted by Jim at Monday, January 21, 2013
By Jean-Louis Santini
20 January 2013
But despite President Barack Obama renewing his early promises to act, experts said political opposition would make it at least as difficult as during Obama's first, failed push to get new legislation through Congress, and said decisive measures will remain unlikely.
"All the public opinion polls show a better understanding of the link between climate change and extreme weather events," said Alden Meyer, strategy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. But, he added, "there is still a lot to do in the Republican Party and in the business community," to get them on board with Obama's plans for solutions, should the president launch a second offensive.
Growing public concern over the global warming threat was laid out in a recent study by the Rasmussen Institute, carried out shortly before November's presidential election, but after Sandy slammed into the US Northeast.
The study showed that 68 percent of US voters believed that climate change was a serious problem, compared to just 46 percent in 2009.
Since being re-elected, Obama has addressed climate change several times, including pledging the week after the vote to launch a nationwide conversation to find common ground, because "we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it." […]
The makeup of Congress remains largely the same as before the November vote. Republicans have retained the majority in the House of Representatives, and a significant bloc come from the ultra-conservative "Tea Party”. In the Senate, Democrats strengthened their majority.
Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions think tank noted that growing public awareness of climate change "has yet to translate into a surge in political willingness."
The issue was not a "game changer" during the election, he added in an interview.
"We still do not see any prospect for major legislation in Congress."
In 2010, amid an economic crisis, the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected the creation of a national market of greenhouse gas emissions—a so-called cap-and-trade system—that would have penalized coal and oil users in favor of those using renewable energy.
According to Diringer, "the best prospect for progress in the near term will be through executive action" by the president. [more]