The climate change rhetoric when Obama came to power was exciting. It sounded as if he would lead from the front and the US would soon have a federal cap-and-trade system. “Delay is not longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response.” Certainly we have seen an end to denial from the White House. But we are still waiting for an end to delay, and increasingly it looks as if we’ll be waiting for a long time. Why?
Eric Pooley’s book The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and the Fight to Save the Earth sheds a good deal of light on why it is that America, in spite of all the scientific evidence that demonstrates the threatening reality of climate change, is still unable, and often unwilling, to mobilise itself to address the danger.
The author is an accomplished journalist who has spent hundreds of hours over the past three years interviewing some of the players in America’s painfully slow progress towards climate change legislation. The result is an illuminating story of battles in an ongoing war which is far from conclusion. It’s told painstakingly but with a narrative verve that carries the reader along irresistibly through its mass of detailed accounts. It’s compelling reading, from which I’ll mention just a few examples.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is the climate change group to which Pooley devotes most of his attention. A large organisation which has been at work for over 40 years, the EDF has long argued for a cap and trade system to tackle CO2 emissions. Its president, Fred Krupp, is focused on partnership with business to bring about political action on climate change and was influential in the formation of the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) in 2007, initially a group of ten companies and four environmental groups.
Among them was Jim Rogers , CEO of Duke Energy. In typically detailed fashion Pooley recreates the drama of meetings at which were hammered out the conditions on which Rogers felt he could join the Call for Action USCAP planned to issue. It hinged on whether allowance was made for initial free distribution of allowances to utilities like Duke, a sticking point for Rogers.
USCAP may have been looked at askance by many Green groups, but Roger’s involvement didn’t go down well with his colleagues at the Edison Electric Institute either. He was chairman at the time and several CEOs called for him to step down. At the Heartland Institute denier’s convention in 2008 Steven Milloy bitterly expressed his dismay that CEOs would endorse a mandatory cap. “What do you do when the people who represent business and free enterprise have switched sides on you?”