For decades, concern about global warming spread steadily, moving from academic circles to the general population, and probably peaking around 2006 or so. Not only did An Inconvenient Truth win Al Gore a Nobel Peace Prize, around that time we began seeing the “consensus” about climate change take over the entire mainstream political spectrum, with most top Republicans endorsing “cap and trade” and other such “market-based” corporatist measures to combat greenhouse gasses.
Yet now the Democratic president has stalled on this kind of government solution to climate change, something championed a few years ago even by many conservatives. What has happened?
Between the terrorist attacks of 2001 and the financial collapse of 2008, climate change had promise to be the new boogeyman against which a new central planning crusade could be targeted. It was a big hope for big government and the corporate state. Most of the oil and auto industries came to embrace the fear, knowing that as believers they had a shot at being rewarded when government began shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars around to address the supposed threat, rather than be punished as heretics by a new regulatory atmosphere.
But somewhere along the way this great danger lost its menacing reputation. Sure, scientists with federal research grants will still blame anything on human carbon emissions—from natural disasters to spiders getting bigger. And yes, such left-liberal luminaries as Paul Krugman have called mere doubt of the climate change “consensus” a case of “treason against the planet.” Al Gore even called for censorship to silence businesses that express doubt.
And yet the great cataclysm of climate change is beginning to scare people less internationally. Other concerns, like the economy, are starting to overshadow the fear of global warming.
One notable point to make is that the trade-off between economic health and a governmental solution to climate change was always a reality, even back when the economy seemed to be doing swell. The sheer cost of restricting human carbon emissions so as to reduce global warming at all substantially, according to the dominant models, would be immense. In the industrialized world, it would cripple industry. In the Third World, it could prevent an industrial revolution from occurring in the first place, which would likely pose far greater harm to the health of the people living there than a couple degrees’ difference in weather.
It is still considered crazy in many circles even to question the zeitgeist of anthropogenic global warming. The few scientists willing to ask uncomfortable questions are marginalized if not silenced. Yet the key component needed for the political class to enact drastic measures to stop this supposed threat to all the world is a public willing to go along with the project. As the public tires of this boogeyman, the prospect of a huge socialistic undertaking to combat climate change begins to fade. One day, perhaps—decades from now, I would guess—people will talk more dispassionately about this topic, and I suspect will look back upon past generations with a bit of laughter.