The House bill contains a provision, inserted in the middle of the
night before Friday’s vote, which requires the president, starting in
2020, to impose a “border adjustment” – or tariff – on certain goods
from countries that do not act to limit their global warming emissions.
The president can waive the tariffs only if he receives explicit
permission from Congress to do so. The provision was added to secure
the votes of Rust Belt lawmakers who were wavering on the bill because
of fears of job losses in heavy industry.
Here is the story and Obama deserves praise for opposing this provision. Here are my comments on the issue itself. The bottom line is that Waxman-Markey, as it currently stands, would in fact be counterproductive, once the international scale of the problem is taken into account. That we learn about this provision only now is startling enough.
I write this all as someone who a) favors a much higher price for fossil fuels, b) thinks that if micro-nutrients are a good idea they are not an alternative to addressing climate change; we could do both with positive expected long-run return, c) thinks that many people on the "Right" oppose W-M mostly because its passage would raise the status of environmentalists and others on the "Left" (but they will not admit as much), and d) thinks that our collective American incompetence in limiting emissions does not eliminate our moral obligation to address the problem.
Sadly, Ezra Klein nailed it:
Climate change is a big problem. It will eventually require a big
solution. My understanding is that the polling suggests that people
don't like it when you tell them this is a big problem and they don't
want to be convinced that they need to spend their time worrying about
something new. In fact, like kids who want to believe that they're
going to the doctor for a lollipop, they want to hear that this is an
awesome new jobs program. But it isn't an awesome new jobs program.
It's an effort to avert a catastrophe on the only planet we know how to
can't see a successful respon[se] to climate change that doesn't
presuppose a majority sharing that belief.