Much more than the future of US health care hangs on
the fate of health care reform. That was the message delivered by
Connecticut senator Joseph Lieberman, a long-term environmental campaigner, to Capitol Hill on the Senate's first day back in office after the August recess.
the health care bill fails, the climate change bill will fail too,"
Lieberman told the Climate Change, Energy and National Security
conference hosted by the political think tank Partnership for a Secure America yesterday.
The climate change bill,
which binds the US to cutting carbon emissions by 17 per cent in 2020
relative to 2005 levels, narrowly passed in the House of
Representatives in June but must clear the Senate, where it is
currently being debated, before it can become law.
If the fight over healthcare reform
severs President Barack Obama's increasingly tense relationship with
Republicans, there's little hope for the climate change bill, Lieberman
said. He stressed how important it is that Republican and Democratic
Senators compromise over the health care bill, and enter the debate
over climate change with a spirit of co-operation.
must recapture the spirit of Vandenberg and Truman," said Lieberman,
referring to the unlikely alliance between Democratic President Harry
Truman and Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg in the 1950s which
allowed the passage of the Marshall Plan and other divisive policies.
Of all the sources of tension between the Republican and Democrat senators debating the climate change bill, coal is the greatest, said Lieberman. Many senators are refusing to back the bill because the national cap and trade system it employs will financially penalise states that burn coal for electricity.
gets about 95 per cent of its electricity from burning coal," said
Lieberman. "So trust me, the senators from Indiana are not going to
vote for this bill if they feel that the result of the bill will be a
skyrocketing increase in the cost of electricity in their state."
suggested that if the climate bill is to win support from senators in
coal-burning states, it must boost subsidies for clean coal technologies
that capture carbon emissions from coal-burning plants and store it
underground. The bill must also do more for the nuclear power industry,
the picture of political schism painted by Lieberman, the senator had
powerful allies amongst the other speakers at the conference, says Dennis McGinn, a US Navy Vice Admiral who is on the military advisory board of CNA, a non-profit research organisation based in Alexandria, Virginia.
was tremendous consensus across the board that a national strategy on
climate change is essential," McGinn, who also delivered a speech at
Tuesday's meeting, told New Scientist. James Woolsey, a former director of the CIA, and Frank Wisner, a former US ambassador to India, also spoke at the event.
War on climate change
The US needs to start treating climate change like a war, said McGinn.
the battlefield, there's no such thing as 100 per cent certainty: if
you hesitate rather taking action, you're asking for disaster," he said.
to take action on climate change will place an unacceptable burden on
the men and women in uniform now and for generations to come, says
McGinn, as its effects would amplify political, religious, economic and ethnic strife across the world. "It's like holding up a giant magnifying glass along human society's fault lines," McGinn said.
added: "It's time that the US Senate recognises the enormous challenges
posed by climate change to national security, and it's time that they
come together to put together a comprehensive policy package to address
Such a union of strategy between politicians may be in sight. The Partnership for a Secure America has just released a bipartisan statement signed by 32 Republicans and Democrats that calls for a "unified American strategy" on climate change.