Plumbing Lieberman-Warner’s shortfalls: doesn’t meet scientific requirements

As one who has voiced, repeatedly, criticism of S-2191, the Lieberman-Warner Coal-Subsidy Act, it is important to occasionally return to facts (rather than rhetoric) to underline its weakness. Thus, climate legislation Principle #1 is “Scientific integrity”, that climate legislation is line with what science says is required. Let’s plumb the depths of Lieberman-Warner’s failures just a little bit in this domain and highlight how some institutions are greenwashing those failures.


Unlike Bush’s utterly catastrophic scenario of enabling growth of emissions to continue to 2025, Lieberman-Warner does provide a path for reducing emissions.  YEAH!  Sort of … S. 2191 has a cap for 2020 that is nearly 20% (19 actually) below 2005 emissions.  Wow … sort of.  Another way of looking at it that this is about 5% below 1990 levels.  Hmmm.  Perhaps not so astounding. 

Now, let us give some credit, there are provisions in S-2191 that will mean additional (associated) reductions or equivalents.  The National Resources Defense Council has worked these numbers and estimates that these additional provisions will mean that total U.S. emissions will be 18 to 25 percent below 2005 levels in 2020, or 4 to 12 percent below 1990 levels.  (In terms of complications, by the way, these numbers seem to count international offsets which really aren’t US emission reductions, are they?) Maybe a bit better … things are looking up, or are they?

According to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report:

To keep temperatures from rising above 3.5 degrees, the panel said, industrialized countries would need to reduce emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

What does that mean: U.S. emissions must be 36 to 49 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Lieberman-Warner, with some generous number crunching, will put the US 18-25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Science says we need to be double that. See the disconnect?

Sadly, a number of environmental organizations are failing to live up to their own words and credos, providing a greenwashing for a bill that is inadequate in front of the challenges we face.

Remember what the IPCC tells us and read these words …

Union of Concerned Scientists

The Climate Security Act (S. 2191) is a strong, comprehensive bill that establishes a good framework for reducing global warming pollution.”

Are they concerned enough? compare this positive statement with how the next statement concludes.

“It sets targets to reduce emissions from covered sectors to approximately 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and approximately 70 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. While there are energy efficiency standards and incentives, as well as incentives for low-carbon agricultural practices, the impact of these provisions is not clear and could result in insufficient economy-wide reductions. To avoid dangerous warming, the bill should cover more of the economy and ensure economy-wide emissions reductions of at least 15 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.”

Anyone else note a disconnect?

National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

Bragging about passage of L-W out of committee and discussing support for it, you find:

In December, a key Senate committee passed the Lieberman-Warner America’s Climate Security Act (S. 2191), which would cut total U.S. global warming pollution up to 25 percent by 2020 and up to 66 percent by 2050.”

Let us be polite. This is truthiness, whether by default or purpose. That’s 25 percent from 2005 levels, not 1990 levels. And that 25 percent is the high end of the possible range they, themselves, estimated. This is sort of likereporting a poll with 22+/-3 as 25 while not mentioning that you’ve excluded the 20% that refused to answer the question.

Environmental Defense Fund

EDF seems hell bent on having a “cap” at any cost … it seems.

The bill would cap and reduce emissions roughly 19 percent below today’s levels by 2020 and 70 percent by 2050, putting the U.S. on a path to reduce emissions far enough and fast enough to help avoid the worst consequences of unchecked global warming.”

Absolutely true, right? After all, Lieberman-Warner would “help avoid the worst consequences of unchecked global warming.” This is simply a truism. Lieberman-Warner would, it seems likely, be better at avoiding the worst of unchecked catastrophic climate change than following George Bush’s concepts. But, quite simply, L-W’s targets do not put the US on a path to avoid extremely dangerous consequences of global warming.

Sigh …

Lieberman-Warner is inadequate of what is required. It is also inadequate in face of what is becoming possible. These organizations and individuals have fought for so long against such odds, that they seem to have lost the ability to judge how far the discussion has shifted and how much further it can shift.

Lieberman-Warner fails on every principle when it comes to Global Warming legislation.

It is time to stop greenwashing it.

5 responses to “Plumbing Lieberman-Warner’s shortfalls: doesn’t meet scientific requirements

  1. Pingback: Husband or Wife on framing environmental issues « Energy Smart

  2. Pingback: Briefly on Boxer’s Brief « Energy Smart

  3. Pingback: Wonk Room » Coal Industry Launches Full-Scale Attack Against Climate Legislation

  4. Pingback: Patrick McCully: Finally, Good News on Climate! US Carbon Emissions Drop | News from: The Huffington Post - Breaking News and Opinion

  5. we will drag our heels on climate change until we have no heels lef to drag, mark my words. Informative psot.

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