The Washington Post reports on November 9 that the Obama transition is already “positioned to quickly reverse Bush actions” that have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from reaching an “endangerment” finding that would trigger regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and from granting California the necessary waiver to allow state regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles. A proposed new White House council to coordinate climate policy could be a first step toward a federal preparedness process for climate change mitigation and adaptation, but only if its scope is broader than an exclusive focus on energy.
In “Obama Positioned to Quickly Reverse Bush Actions,” the Washington Post says:
Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama have compiled a list of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights and other issues, according to congressional Democrats, campaign aides and experts working with the transition team….
The president-elect has said, for example, that he intends to quickly reverse the Bush administration’s decision last December to deny California the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles….
Before the election, Obama told others that he favors declaring that carbon dioxide emissions are endangering human welfare, following an EPA task force recommendation last December that Bush and his aides shunned in order to protect the utility and auto industries.…an issue on which Obama is keen to show that politics must not interfere with scientific advice….
On the EPA “endangerment” finding called for by the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, see our earlier posts:
July 20: EPA report on climate change health & welfare impacts: Interview comments on Free Speech Radio News
July 17: EPA releases report identifying harmful effects of climate change on human health
May 29: Government report provides strong evidence U.S. endangered by climate change impacts
March 12: Waxman to EPA: Why is work on required greenhouse gas regulation being blocked?
A book titled “Change for America,” being published next week by the Center for American Progress, an influential liberal think tank, will recommend…that Obama rapidly create a National Energy Council to coordinate all policymaking related to global climate change….The center’s influence with Obama is substantial: It was created by former Clinton White House official John D. Podesta, a co-chairman of the transition effort…
See our November 7 post, “President-elect Obama will need top climate and energy advice in the White House.” We said: A “Climate Change Preparedness Council” (our suggested name)—or a “National Energy and Climate Council” in the White House (recently proposed by Clean Air-Cool Planet and others) will be essential (but not sufficient!) for carrying out the strong leadership the nation and the world need.
Creation of a White House entity to coordinate the new administration’s climate change policymaking will be a first step. Beyond that, we need to develop an institutional capability for a broader national climate change preparedness process to deal with both mitigation and adaptation issues. In “Beyond the Phony ‘Debate’: Government Science and the Climate Crisis,” a July 11 talk at the Center for Science and the Public Interest’s national conference on Rejuvenating Public Sector Science, CSW director Rick Piltz said:
The next President and Congress, I think, need to undertake a national climate change preparedness process, to put the federal government and the federal climate and global change research program in play in getting the country on a footing to manage our response to climate change—which we will be doing pretty much indefinitely now – as a problem of scientific intelligence gathering, risk assessment, and risk management.
In the future, if we are at a point where society has put in place the structure and processes needed to deal with climate change as a management problem, we will have a government entity – an independent entity, not just a direct political extension of the White House – staffed with the relevant scientific, technical, and professional expertise, that will, for example:
o Commission focused scientific assessments that are needed for policymaking and decisionmaking at all levels of government;
o Put out a steady stream of credible public communication that diagnoses and talks about the problems and how we’re handling them; and
o Put together the relevant scientific and technical expertise, with full federal support, to work with public officials down to the state and local level and in the private sector – those who have the practical responsibility for implementing emissions reductions and adaptation to climate change.
Whatever comes out of the post-Kyoto Protocol negotiating process, and whatever comes out of Congress on cap and trade legislation, there is going to be a host of practical implementation issues that will require a long-term response. And right now, the federal government is just absolutely not positioned to address that problem effectively.