No guts

Studies predicting how global warming will harm the Earth continue to be produced. But the reports are about as innocuous as gnats to the Senate Republicans, who successfully blocked passage of any significant climate-change legislation.

A new report from the National Resources Defense Council concludes that a third of all the counties in the contiguous United States will face water shortages by 2050 as a result of global warming. Among the 400 highest-risk counties, eight are in Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, and seven in New Jersey.

Guess that doesn’t matter to those who fought the climate bill. After all, that’s 40 years away, and some of them don’t believe in global warming anyway.

To be sure, the climate bill had faults. To garner support, the bill, crafted by Sens. John Kerry (D., Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) was stuffed with goodies sought by the opposition to mitigate its impact on the fossil-fuel industries. But the biggest piece of candy turned rancid.

President Obama’s calculation that he could win GOP votes by agreeing to expand offshore drilling was dashed to smithereens by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The April 20 oil-rig explosion killed 11 people, polluted the Gulf of Mexico, and has endangered the livelihoods of thousands.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and others argue that America can’t walk away from offshore drilling just because of the tragedy. That’s a hard sell for some, but it has support among folks in hard-hit coastal towns urging an end to the job-killing moratorium on drilling.

Lifting the moratorium, though, won’t mean an expansion of drilling anytime soon. There’s still uncertainty over whether the oil leaking into the Gulf has been stopped. In the meantime, Senate Democrats are pushing a more modest climate bill defining BP’s liability for the spill and tightening energy-efficiency standards.

Missing will be the controversial plan to reduce carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade program. The House narrowly passed cap-and-trade in June, with eight Republicans voting for it. But the Senate never voted on its bill, which means House Republicans who voted yes have nothing to show for braving to cross the aisle.

Does that mean there will never be a cap on carbon emissions? Never may be too strong, but it is difficult to envision when such restrictions would be imposed. Recent articles report Canada, France, and Japan are also having trouble passing cap-and-trade plans. U.S. leadership would help.

As the impacts of climate change become more certain, the public will demand action. Right now, people are more concerned about the jobs that could be lost if industries are forced to drastically reduce emissions. People aren’t focused on how global warming will create water shortages that may make it hard for their grandchildren to grow food.