It strikes me as a bit odd that John McCain's climate change speech seems so focused on the need for nuclear power. Talking a lot about nukes in this context is a good move for, say, a pundit so there's always a healthy amount of demand for "counterintuitive" arguments like "environmentalists are the ones responsible for global warming!" But politically, what's the percentage in this?

Realistically, one assumes that any viable climate change bill is going to need to be backed by as broad a coalition as possible, so that probably means cutting nuclear in on the deal whether or not it's really warranted. Personally, I'd prefer to end our subsidies to coal, oil, and gas then implement cap and trade and then make due without any subsidies for other sources -- not nuclear, not solar, not anything -- above and beyond the large implicit subsidy of the carbon cap.

But all that's quibbling over details. What I'd really like to hear from McCain is about a different departure from environmental orthodoxy -- why, if he believes that global warming is a real problem that we should tackle by reducing carbon emissions, has he written a bill that doesn't reduce emissions enough to tackle the problem? Presumably McCain's belief about the nature of the problem comes from the same scientific sources as everyone else's -- so why's he endorsing half-measures? Certainly if half-measures are the best you can get out of the legislative process a president should accept that, but why would you start with an inadequate long-term goal?

Photo by Flickr user ilker used under a Creative Commons license

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.