Disdain for 'Right Wing' Position on Global Warming: 'We Look Like a Joke, Right?'
The Sunday Review cover story lament by New York Times environmental reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal, 'Where Did Global Warming Go?', collected examples of conservative 'climate deniers' (does anyone actually deny that climate exists?) being mocked by environmental experts like Bill Clinton, as well as all of Europe, for not signing on to crippling regulations in the name of halting rising temperatures.
Rosenthal is certainly a believer in the theory that man is making the temperature rise in harmful fashion; in her reporting she has blamed about every problem under the sun on global warming, even calling on China and India to turn off their air conditioners to save the planet in the August 28 edition of the Sunday Review.
In 2008, both the Democratic and Republican candidates for president, Barack Obama and John McCain, warned about man-made global warming and 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.
In the crowded Republican presidential field, most seem to agree with Gov. Rick Perry of Texas that 'the science is not settled' on man-made global warming, as he said in a debate last month. Alone among Republicans onstage that night, Jon M. Huntsman Jr. said that he trusted scientists' view that the problem was real. At the moment, he has the backing of about 2 percent of likely Republican voters.
Though the evidence of climate change has, if anything, solidified, Mr. Obama now talks about 'green jobs' mostly as a strategy for improving the economy, not the planet. He did not mention climate in his last State of the Union address. Meanwhile, the administration is fighting to exempt United States airlines from Europe's new plan to charge them for CO2 emissions when they land on the continent. It also seems poised to approve a nearly 2,000-mile-long pipeline, from Canada down through the United States, that will carry a kind of oil. Extracting it will put relatively high levels of emissions into the atmosphere.
The United States is the 'one significant outlier' on responding to climate change, according to a recent global research report produced by HSBC, the London-based bank. John Ashton, Britain's special representative for climate change, said in an interview that 'in the U.K., in Europe, in most places I travel to' - but not in the United States - 'the starting point for conversation is that this is real, there are clear and present dangers, so let's get a move on and respond.' After watching the Republican candidates express skepticism about global warming in early September, former President Bill Clinton put it more bluntly, 'I mean, it makes us - we look like a joke, right?'
Rosenthal devotes one sentence to reasons why Americans might not want to emulate the restrictions of Europe called for by fear-mongering climate science: "We value personal freedom, are suspicious of scientists, and tend to distrust the kind of sweeping government intervention required to confront rising greenhouse gas emissions."
Rosenthal's reporting sounds a bit European in its disdainful distancing from the G.O.P.
In the United States, the right wing of the Republican Party has managed to turn skepticism about man-made global warming into a requirement for electability, forming an unlikely triad with antiabortion and gun-rights beliefs. In findings from a Pew poll this spring, 75 percent of staunch conservatives, 63 percent of libertarians and 55 percent of Main Street Republicans said there was no solid evidence of global warming.
Buffeted by two years of treacherous weather that they are less able to handle than richer nations - from floods in India to water shortages in China - developing countries are feeling vulnerable. Scientists agree that extreme weather events will be more severe and frequent on a warming planet, and insurance companies have already documented an increase.