The Senate Was History’s Greatest Obstacle to Climate Progress – The Atlantic

by | Aug 7, 2022 | Climate Change

Updated at 5:19 p.m. on August 7, 2022Climate change was born as a modern political issue in the United States Senate. On a hot June day in 1988, a senior NASA scientist warned a Senate committee that global warming, which was previously mooted only as a hypothesis, was not only real but already under way. “It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here,” James Hansen said.An auspicious start, and an ironic one. Since then, the fight against climate change in the United States and abroad has been defined by one constant: You can’t get the Senate to do anything. For 34 years, the upper chamber’s peculiar failure to act on the issue has shaped nearly every facet of policy and politics. Because the Senate could not pass a comprehensive climate bill, Congress could not; because Congress could not pass a climate bill, climate-concerned presidents had to rely on executive action and the permissiveness of the Supreme Court, and climate activists had to win smaller state and local reforms. This uniquely American reliance on regulatory, state, and local climate policy has never quite worked—the country still lacks a comprehensive plan to decarbonize its electricity sector, for instance, which remains dirtier than Western Europe’s—and it has been too disjointed to help the United States transition away from f …

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