Caldwell

Patrick Caldwell

Reporter

Patrick Caldwell is a reporter in Mother Jones’ DC bureau. Previously, he covered domestic politics for The American Prospect and elections for The American Independent. His work has also appeared in The NationThe New Republic, and The Washington Independent. E-mail any and all tips to pcaldwell [at] motherjones [dot] com. Follow his tweets at @patcaldwell.

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Patrick Caldwell is a reporter in Mother Jones’ DC bureau. Previously, he covered all things domestic politics for The American Prospect and elections for The American Independent. His work has also appeared in The NationThe New Republic, and The Washington Independent. E-mail any and all tips to pcaldwell [at] motherjones [dot] com. Follow him on Twitter at @patcaldwell.

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The Budget Impasse Is Over, But House Republicans Plan More Economic Brinksmanship

| Mon Dec. 16, 2013 8:42 AM PST

So much for a budget détente. Less than a week after he and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) reached a deal on a federal budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015—a remarkable feat of comity and a marked shift from congress' recent habit of putting off deals to the last possible second—Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is gearing up for the next fiscal stalemate.

In a Sunday television appearance, Ryan stressed that he wants concessions from Democrats in exchange for raising the debt ceiling to prevent the US government from defaulting on its borrowing this spring. "We as a caucus—along with our Senate counterparts—are going to meet and discuss what it is we’re going to want out of the debt limit," Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, said on Fox News. “We don’t want nothing out of this debt limit. We’re going to decide what it is we’re going to accomplish out of this debt-limit fight.”

In recent years, House Republicans have embraced economic brinksmanship as a negotiating tool and begun using once-routine debt-ceiling adjustments to try to advance their cost-cutting agenda. They took the nation to the edge of default in 2011, extracting budget cuts in exchange from Democrats. Another debt-ceiling fight in October of this year shut down the federal government—and sent Republican approval ratings plummeting. Republicans relented before the debt ceiling was actually breached, but the battle did lasting damage to the party and the economy. It seems unlikely that Ryan and his House Republican colleagues would push the nation so close to the brink again, given the political toll past fights have taken.

But his comments are an indicative PR move. Ryan clearly thinks of himself as a future presidential contender. His ability to reach a budget deal boosts his resume, an example he can now cite when questioned about his ability to foster bipartisan deals to accomplish his goals. But it cost Ryan his wonder-boy status among the party's right flank. Ryan's decision to trade sequestration cuts, a mandatory cap on discretionary spending revered by the right, for future savings angered conservatives. Pretty much every major tea party group—Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, Freedomworks, etc.—denounced the plan as a sellout to Democrats.

Ryan's colleagues were unusually frank in rebutting those groups last week. "Frankly, I think they're misleading their followers," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said. "I think they're pushing our members in places they don't want to be. And, frankly, I just think they've lost all credibility." Ryan wasn't quite as outspoken about his differences with the party's conservative wing. "I'd prefer to keep these conversation within our family," he said on Meet the Press this weekend. Republicans, like him, who want to someday run for higher office still need to bow down before the tea party's dogma of obstinacy. Assuring a fight over the debt ceiling could help Ryan return to those groups' good graces.

Why the EPA Chief Needs China's Help to Tackle Global Warming

| Mon Dec. 9, 2013 8:59 AM PST

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy is in China this week for her first international trip as the head of the agency. During her four-day tour she'll stop by Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong and will meet with her counterparts in the Chinese government to discuss how the two countries might reduce their carbon footprint. "The U.S. and China represent the world's largest economies, the world's largest energy consumers, and the world's largest emitters of carbon pollution," McCarthy said last week in a speech previewing her trip. "I'd rather not be the largest energy consumers or the largest emitters of carbon pollution, but since we are we're going to get together and we're going to talk."

The world better hope the planet's two dominant superpowers can find a way to curb their pollution. The US, which is responsible for much of the rise in emissions during the twentieth century, is certainly one of the world's leading villains when it comes to global warming. But China is now, by far, the world's top producer of climate-destroying pollutants. The country claimed the top spot in global carbon emissions in 2007, nabbing the reins from the US. (To be fair to China, the US emits far more carbon per capita.)

Combined, China and the US produce nearly half of the world's carbon emissions. This chart breaks down the percentage of global CO2 emissions from 2008 by country:

 

 

China once lagged far behind the other major polluters in the world. But as this chart from the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media shows, the country's emissions have risen steeply ever since the late 1990s:

 

 

As things stand, China's exponential increase in emissions won't abate anytime soon. Even as the country leads research in renewable energy and explores a carbon tax, it's not enough. "Over the next two decades or so, China will belch out nearly as much CO2 as it did over the entire previous 160 years combined," the Economist wrote last month.

Carbon emissions from the US have leveled off and even dropped slightly in recent years, thanks to increased fuel efficiency in cars and cheaper natural gas. Good news, but the US will need to reduce, not just flat line, its carbon use if the worst calamities of global warming—cities wiped out by rising sea levels, volatile storms, droughts, etc.—are to be averted. But even if US politicians can muster the will to pass meaningful legislation tackling climate change, it will all be for naught if China's emissions rate continues to skyrocket.

 

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