Whoever wins the 2012 presidential election will have to take an active role in international climate-change negotiations, according to many of National Journal’s Energy and Environment Insiders.
Asked how important it will be for the next (or current) president to keep America relevant in these negotiations, more than 60 percent of Insiders said that it would be either “Very Important” or “Somewhat Important.” Thirty-two percent of Insiders said this job will be “Very Important,” while nearly 30 percent said it would be “Somewhat Important.”
“The U.S. needs to play a productive role in international climate-change negotiations consistent with its economic leadership, but does not have to be desperate for a deal,” one Insider said.
Though most Insiders said that America needs to remain an active part of these negotiations, many also conceded that this will likely be difficult if a Republican gets elected.
GOP front-runners Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have both been skeptical of climate science in their own way.
While Romney has fallen into the camp of those who dispute climate science by questioning whether human activity is a contributing factor, Perry has simply said that the science of climate change itself is “not proven.” Both have questioned the use of cap-and-trade, the role of the Environmental Protection Agency, and have vowed to curb the EPA’s involvement in issuing climate change rules.
Others involved in the GOP primary, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, have even said they would close the agency’s doors. Meanwhile, Jon Huntsman, the only Republican candidate to firmly stand behind climate-change science, has all but faded as a candidate for 2012.
Despite the overwhelming anti-climate-science tone in the GOP primary, Insiders say that a Republican president would have to swallow it for the sake of international cooperation and America’s economic future.
“Regardless whether the next president believes that climate change is taking place, the rest of the world is prepared to move forward without the U.S. If we are not at the table, American business will be severely disadvantaged,” one Insider said.
“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” another echoed.
Still, a combined nearly 40 percent said that America’s continued involvement in global climate-change negotiations is somewhat unimportant or very unimportant.
“Multilateral negotiations on climate are going the way of the World’s Fairs. They still hold ’em, but no one knows about it or cares,” one Insider said, echoing the words of others who argued that the United Nations climate talks have turned into “nothing more than a show.”
“After this administration's gratuitous failure in Copenhagen, the international climate dialogue has become a farce,” one Insider said.
Obama himself hasn’t had the easiest path when it comes to climate change negotiations.
At the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, Obama said that the United States would lead the way in forging a climate treaty, starting with some of its own commitments at home. But even with a Democratic Congress, the climate bill fell apart in the Senate. International climate talks closed in Cancún in 2010 without making substantial progress. Since then, Obama’s EPA has been struggling to put in place a number of Clean Air Act rules, while regularly being called in front of congressional hearings and oversight panels.
In a month, climate talks resume in Durban, South Africa.
Despite its importance, however, climate change will not be the most pressing international energy issue that the next president will have to tackle in the years to come.
Most Insiders—32 percent—said that the most pressing issue will be U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
"The arrival of the 7 billionth human on earth is a stark reminder that international demand for oil will continue to grow for years to come, especially in developing countries. Coupled with the perennial instability of oil producing countries in the mid-east, this will ensure that price and reliability of supply will consume the bulk of the president's time in this space," said one Insider.
"Global oil issues will always be the most important and relevant issues because [they] directly [impact] our consumers' bottom line," said another.