Has Obama Backed Off Climate Goals?

Is the Obama Administration setting aside its ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction goals due to political realities? Yes and no, the NYT explains.

Has the administration scaled back its global-warming goals, at least for this year, or is it engaged in sophisticated misdirection?

Maybe some of both. While addressing climate change appears to be slipping down the president's list of priorities for the year, he is holding in reserve a powerful club to regulate carbon dioxide emissions through executive authority.

That club takes the form of Environmental Protection Agency regulation of the gases blamed for the warming of the planet, an authority granted the agency by the Supreme Court's reading of the Clean Air Act. Administration officials consistently say they would much prefer that Congress write new legislation to pre-empt the E.P.A. regulatory power, but they are clearly holding it in reserve as a prod to reluctant lawmakers and recalcitrant industries and as evidence of good faith to other nations.

While Congress seems to have little appetite for an ambitious cap-and-trade plan at the moment, I suspect many will change their minds when confronted with the alternative of regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. I'd like to think that pushing off the climate policy decision could cause some to reconsider use of a revenue-neutral carbon tax, as it's the best option on the table, but I am not optimistic.