Climate Change Reform Will Be Tougher than Health Care

As health care's passage shifts into not-if-but-when gear, we can all look forward to the next wild rumpus on Capitol Hill: Climate change reform. The conventional wisdom seems to be that the Democrats' cap-and-trade bill will have to run, skip and jump through the same obstacle course as health care: Socialism rumors, liberal in-fighting, special interests teaming, fake deadlines and pressure to scale back ambitions. Democrats will probably feel like Bill Murray waking up to "I Got You, Babe" for the umpteenth time in Groundhog Day. Except instead of inching closer to winning the affections of that Andie Macdowell character, the Democratic protagonists will find the next iteration of reform will be a lot tougher.

David Roberts from Grist disagrees and offers seven reasons why liberals should be optimistic about climate change reform. His first four are: Demonstrated Republican support, momentum from health care's passage, public support and international pressure for a bill. The first two seem right. The last two seem wrong.

Public support. The public's support for a climate change bill is a lot like its support for health care bill. Broadly, the public supports reform. Narrowly, the public has doubts about the specific bills under consideration. Specifically, the public thinks taxes are awful and hurt the economy. And generally they have no idea what cap-and-trade is. This is not a recipe for optimism. This is a recipe for confusion, and in a vacuum of information, misleading statistics flourish.

International pressure. "International pressure is becoming intense," Roberts writes. How intense? So intense that China has ... um... announced a pledge, which is the international relations equivalent of thinking about thinking about something. I don't doubt that an American climate change bill could change the international landscape of climate change reform and encourage other countries to pursue their own environmental policies. But I don't think senators from Nebraska and Louisiana are thinking about Japan and China as much as their thinking about energy prices and business output.