The Washington Post did a pretty spectacular job of blurring the differences between the Democratic candidates and John McCain in this editorial over the weekend, which requires some thorough clarification on most of the issues it mentions. Let's start with global warming. Says the Post: "[T]he next president will not start as a skeptic about the danger posed by global warming, and he or she will favor, not resist, legislation to impose mandatory caps on greenhouse gases, even without an international agreement binding other nations." Let's be clear on this. While McCain is likely to be better than Bush on climate change, his plan is in no way comparable to that of the Democratic candidates.
I've noted this before, and both Joe Romm and Chris Mooney have examined the subject in more depth. But here are the basics: while McCain claims that climate change is one of his top three issues, his agenda the subject is pretty much non-existant. McCain won't stand up for mandatory caps (despite the fact that his own bill on the matter amounts to a mandate), and supports emissions reductions that are significantly lower than those that Obama and Clinton support. His idea of good climate legislation is more in line with the Lieberman-Warner bill, which calls for less than a 70 percent reduction of emissions by 2050. The Democrats, meanwhile, have stood up in favor of emissions reductions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 -- the kinds of reductions current science says we need.
And both Clinton and Obama have outlined cap and trade plans that would auction off 100 percent of pollution permits and invest the proceeds in clean energy technologies that will reduce carbon emissions. But the Lieberman-Warner bill currently on the table, which is closer to McCain's preferred approach to cap-and-trade, only auctions a small percentage of credits, giving most of them away to the very industries responsible for global warming. The Democrats also support subsidies and tax incentives to help develop a green economy, which McCain doesn't support.
McCain has also stressed -- repeatedly -- that he will appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court, which in addition to threatening my right to do what I want with my body, would also pose a serious threat to the environment. Remember last year's 5-4 decision in the Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the court narrowly ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has the responsibility of regulating carbon dioxide? In his dissent, Antonin Scalia argued that carbon dioxide, "which is alleged to be causing global climate change," is not an air pollutant, and repeated all the absurd claims of the Bush administration EPA. He was joined in that argument by Roberts, Thomas and Alito -- the types of judges John McCain says he'd appoint as president, which would surely mean a very different outcome in landmark cases like this.
Rather than buying into this notion that McCain is somehow just like the Democrats when it comes to climate policy, perhaps the Post should actually take a look at what McCain supports rather than accepting hollow rhetoric. A McCain presidency isn't going to bring the greener tomorrow we need.