The term, “whipping a dead horse,” came to mind as I read a NYT opinion piece by their environmental reporter, Elizabeth Rosenthal. She bemoans the reality that the USA just isn’t that into global warming anymore. From “Where Did Global Warming Go?”:
In 2008, both the Democratic and Republican candidates for president, Barack Obama and John McCain, warned about man-made global warmingand supported legislation to curb emissions. After he was elected, President Obama promised “a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change,” and arrived cavalry-like at the 2009 United Nations Climate Conference in Copenhagen to broker a global pact. But two years later, now that nearly every other nation accepts climate change as a pressing problem, America has turned agnostic on the issue.
Oh dear! Why can’t we be like other countries (the liberals’ constant lament)?
When the British polling firm Ipsos Mori asked Americans this past summer to list their three most pressing environmental worries, “global warming/climate change” garnered only 27 percent, behind even “overpopulation.” This fading of global warming from the political agenda is a mostly American phenomenon. True, public enthusiasm for legislation to tackle climate change has flagged somewhat throughout the developed world since the recession of 2008. Nonetheless, in many other countries, legislation to control emissions has rolled out apace. Just last Wednesday, Australia’s House of Representatives passed a carbon tax, which is expected to easily clear the country’s Senate. Europe’s six-year-old carbon emissions trading system continues its yearly expansion. In 2010, India passed a carbon tax on coal. Even China’s newest five-year plan contains a limited pilot cap-and-trade system, under which polluters pay for excess pollution.
Let’s set the record straight, here. First, the carbon tax is extremely unpopular in Australia. More to the point, Australia’s minority government PM, Julia Gillard, promised repeatedly in the 2010 election campaign that she wouldn’t dream of enacting a carbon tax. (I know, I was there during part of the campaign and watched her say it on television.) But for that ploy, Tony Abbott would almost surely be PM today. Moreover, the tax may not stick. Gillard’s popularity in the face of her pushing the tax is collapsing and Abbott has given a “a pledge in blood that this tax will go.” As of now, Abbott’s Coalition would wail on Labor—if the election were held today, which it isn’t—by 58-42%. Yogi Berra said, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over, and the Australian carbon tax is far from settled.
As to China, it is a coal hog—with no signs of slowing down. Indeed, because it uses so much coal to generate electricity, it’s attempt to switch to electric cars actually causes electric cars to be responsible for more CO2 than internal combustion engines. Why, just last week, Andrew Revkin noted in the NYT opinion section:
...in all but three grid regions in China, electric vehicles produce more CO2 per mile because of the coal source for the power than the equivalent gasoline-powered car.
Back to Warren, she sighs in appreciation that Europe is still on the carbon fighting path. They are welcome to it, but in case you haven’t noticed, Europe’s economy is in danger of collapse and increasing the cost of energy won’t help.
And she seems to blame “conservative Republicans” for the USA’s loss of zeal. But when the Democrats had super majorities in both houses, they couldn’t pass a cap and trade bill, much less a carbon tax—because Democratic senators resisted. Besides, global warming hysterics destroyed the political viability of their own movement in the USA, as I have repeatedly pointed out.
Even Obama is turning a cold shoulder:
In private, scientific advisers to Mr. Obama say he and his administration remain committed to confronting climate change and global warming. But Robert E. O’Connor, program director for decision, risk and management sciences at the National Science Foundation in Washington, said a bolder leader would emphasize real risks that, apparently, now feel distant to many Americans. “If it’s such an important issue, why isn’t he talking about it?”
Because it would cost him Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, and he’d be on the $1 million per speech “rubber chicken” circuit bemoaning greed four years earlier than planned. But O’Connor needn’t be too concerned. I suspect our president’s middle name is Gillard. If he’s reelected, he’ll press the pedal to the GWH metal if he can.
On the other hand, Kyoto 2 may collapse at the coming talks in Durban—a point Warren forgot to note—and a desperate attempt is afoot to keep it alive. From the Financial Times story:
Governments are looking at a new plan to make sure the Kyoto treaty does not completely collapse at next month’s climate talks, the UN’s top climate diplomat has revealed. A negotiators’ meeting in Panama last week ahead of the Durban summit showed a willingness to consider a “letter of intent” obliging governments to “move towards a comprehensive agreement that would be binding to all at some point in time”, said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Climate Change. It is not clear when that point in time might be, but Ms Figueres said the Panama meeting showed negotiations were “more on track than I had expected”.
A letter of intent? Hmm. That and $2 will buy you a small cup of Starbuck’s coffee. And most countries didn’t even meet their Kyoto 1 goals.
Reading Warren’s piece reminded me of the kid, told by his mother that he can’t go to a party, whining, “But all the other moms let their kids go!“ And we all know his mother’s next line, “If the other moms let their kids jump off a cliff, would you jump too?” In this case, we won’t. If Warren thinks Americans are going to re-stoke GWH because of what other countries, think, say, and do, she doesn’t know the USA.
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