One day, when our descendants look back on this point in history, the attitude of the Senate towards climate change is going to make for some fascinating reading. Here, for example, is some choice fiddling as the temperature in Rome rises (via Benen):
“I’d just as soon see that set aside until we work through the economy,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). “What we don’t want to do is have anything get in the way of working to resolve the problems with the economy.”
“Climate change in an election year has very poor prospects,” added Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). “I’ve told that to the leadership.”
If you read the whole article, you’ll note that those are the two main rationales given. The former of the two comes off as just ever so slightly disingenuous, for all the usual reasons (there’s no reason why “working through the economy” couldn’t include a stimulus package with some environmentally-friendly features), but the latter seems to strike at the heart of things. It’s not so much that the next year or so needs to be set aside for the Senate to deal with something else entirely; it’s that Nelson, Bayh, etc. would like very much to appear extremely concerned with the economy in advance of the 2010 election.
The cynicism is pretty striking, although certainly nothing new from them. It just drives home, once again, the startling evasions of moral responsibility one can pull off when looming global crises are discussed only as abstractions.