Thats what it will take next year to get a climate bill through the Senate and enacted into law.
Rising from the plains of Oklahoma is a formidable barrier to getting the necessary 60 votes one James Inhofe, senior senator, who is favored for re-election this year and has vowed to filibuster legislation that caps greenhouse gas emissions. Sixty votes is necessary for cloture votes that cut off debates.
What will it take to get those 60 votes? It will take bipartisan legislation that will be a split-the-difference compromise that probably wont go as far as some would like. The caps probably will be lower than they ought to be and there may be loopholes, such as a provision to distribute more emissions allowances if the price exceeds a certain trigger point.
It wont be good enough. But it will be better than nothing which is what were likely to get if climate activists insist on the full monty, with politically sticky provisions such as full and immediate auctioning of all emissions allowances.
Its easy to propose the ideal emissions reduction plan. There isnt much of a political price for putting out a press release. But getting the ideal passed would require members of Congress and the next occupant of the Oval Office to expend an extraordinary amount of limited political capital that they may want to reserve for other priorities.
Thats not to say it cant happen. But climbing over or tunneling through Mount Inhofe wont be easy. If its politically necessary to settle for a less ambitious bill in order to round up the 60 votes, then its better to get the emissions caps on the books sooner rather than later.
Once the legislation is enacted into law, markets can begin adjusting to the caps, businesses can start innovating, and we can start accumulating the workaday experience that will show the climate skeptics that the sky wont fall if CO2 emissions are reduced.
And with that experience in hand, along with more scientific evidence for global warming, adjusting the law later will be a whole lot easier.
Recall our experience with the Montreal Protocol in the 1980s. Achieving the first iteration, which called only for a reduction in ozone-depleting substances, was the political equivalent of a root canal. The subsequent revisions that strengthened the protocol, which led to a total U.S. phase-out of the leading ozone-eating gases, did not require anywhere near as much political capital.
Lets take what we can get now, then adjust as experience and evidence informs us. A bird in hand that can get 60 votes is better than two in the bush that can't.
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