I caught hell from some of you readers for heavily doubting that we are going to do anything meaningful to reverse or even slow the rate of putting CO2 into the atmosphere. I say that as someone who believes scientists when they say that human activity is contributing significantly to the warming of the planet. Robert Samuelson speaks to why I’m skeptical that there is the political will to do anything meaningful to stop this. Excerpt:
It’s useful for environmental groups to have global warming “deniers” (and, of course, behind them the sinister oil companies) as foils. The subliminal message is that once the views of these Neanderthals are swept away, we can adopt sensible policies to “do something” about global warming.
The reality is otherwise. The central truth for public policy is: We have no solution.
And global politics and economics is a big reason:
No sane government will sacrifice its economy today — by dramatically curtailing fossil-fuel use — for the uncertain benefits of less global warming sometime in the foggy future. (The focus of the U.S. global warming report on the present seems aimed at bridging this gap.)
Worse, almost all the projected increases in global emissions come from poorer countries, half from China alone. By contrast, U.S. emissions (and those of most rich nations) are projected to stay stable over the three decades. Economic growth is slowing; energy efficiency is increasing; and, in Japan and some European countries, populations are declining. Because poor countries understandably won’t abandon their efforts to relieve poverty, any further U.S. emissions cuts would probably be offset by gains in China and elsewhere. This dims their political and environmental appeal.
As Samuelson notes, a strong majority of Americans believe that global warming is real. But these poll numbers from Pew tell us that Americans don’t care to do much about it. Note well:
About four-in-ten (42%) Democrats cite it as a top priority compared to 14% of Republicans and 27% of independents.
Don’t blame Rush Limbaugh or the Koch brothers. Activists can’t even get a majority of Democrats mobilized around this issue. Samuelson is correct: right-wingers are a convenient villain here, but the obstacles in the way of solving the problem are far more difficult than simply gagging conservative climate-change skeptics.