Those who believe that mankind is a rapacious scourge upon Mother Earth have never had so much to celebrate as they do today. With the election of Barack Obama and sweeping Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, environmentalists are poised to make changes for which they have yearned for many years. Republicans are so impotent that they aren't even a worthy adversary anymore; instead, greens are flexing their muscle against insufficiently committed Democrats.
The "wily environmentalist" Rep. Henry Waxman, of California, recently defeated Michigan's John Dingell as chairman of Congress' Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. Dingell, though a staunch Democrat and longtime ranking member, represents Detroit and is reluctant to further burden the collapsing automakers with still more regulations. Congressional Democrats have decided to remove him as being too "moderate," replacing him with Rep. Waxman.
In other words, the Democrats have elected a chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee who wants us to have less of both. Too bad they can't find a similar attitude to head the committee on taxation!
Waxman's new position will make liberal life much easier when Mr. Obama brings forward his long-promised carbon-permits plan, the express intent of which is to raise energy prices for American consumers and businesses. The more expensive something is, the less of it people will use; so, for those who believe that global warming is caused by human energy use, making energy more expensive is just what the doctor ordered.
To make sure that the changes stick, Mr. Obama intends to enshrine them in an international treaty which our Constitution sets at equal in authority to the Constitution itself. In a televised speech to a climate change conference, he said:
We will establish strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them by an additional 80 per cent by 2050...Once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in [treaty] negotiations and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change.
There's just one little fly in the ointment for these celebrating the end of the carbon era: all around the world, voters are beginning to see through the dust and haze thrown up by climate-change panickers and are realizing that all is not quite as they have been told.
Certainly, the global recession is not helping matters. It's easy to talk a green line when you are feeling wealthy and paying a little more doesn't hurt.
It's far different to have to pay higher taxes and energy costs when your paycheck is suffering. A Prius may be the "in" car, but a much cheaper gas-powered Honda makes more sense when times are tight. In England, the Times of London reports,
Only a year ago, according to MORI, 15 per cent of those polled put the environment in their top three concerns. That figure has dropped by a third to 10 per cent this month. Now that people are fighting for their own survival rather than their grandchildren's, they put crime, the economy and rising prices at the top of their list.
According to Andrew Cooper, director of the research company, Populus: "There is a direct correlation between how people perceive the economy and the importance they place on the environment. When times are tough people resent paying more to salve their conscience."
The National Journal tells us that this development is not confined to England:
According to a survey [PDF] from ABC News, Planet Green and Stanford University, fewer than half -- 47 percent -- of Americans consider global warming an important issue to them personally, down from 52 percent in April 2007. Although a vast majority still think the planet is warming -- 8 in 10 respondents -- that figure is also down from last year, having dropped 4 percentage points. Furthermore, in an open-ended question, the number of respondents who called global warming the biggest environmental challenge facing the world fell 8 points from 2007 and currently hovers at 25 percent.
Wealth can cover a multitude of economic stupidities - if there is enough money to go around, there is enough to waste on stupid things without the waste being painfully obvious. How many ridiculous and ugly fashion trends have we endured during the boom? Don't worry if the "it" look will be revealed as ludicrous tomorrow - you can always get another outfit. When times are tight, on the other hand, you'll be stuck wearing those new boots until they wear out, like them or not - so you'd better be good and sure they suit you before you spend the money.
As the air seeps out of our global economy, the favorite liberal shibboleths of environmentalism and race are colliding. The costs of the policies mooted by Mr. Obama and his allies are appalling; and, as always, the costs fall hardest on those least able to pay.
Will Al Gore have a hard time paying his electric bill, even if it doubles or triples from its already vast level? Hardly. For inner-city blacks, it's a different matter. TheRoot.com, not noted for its sympathies to conservatism, offers this polemic:
Failing schools, crime and single-parent households are just a few of the challenges facing urban communities. Now, thanks to radical environmentalists and their supporters, a bunch I like to call "Club Green," they must face soaring energy as well...
Our nation is blessed with an abundant supply of natural resources. The problem is that Congress, at the demand of Club Green, blocks access to these resources at the peril of families.
What's disturbing is that, like Gore, many of Club Green's leaders are among the elite. They are the wealthy, famous, politically-connected and largely immune to the sticker shock of high energy costs.
Something is terribly wrong because the wealth and the political access of a few are being used to dictate how everyone should live.
Indeed. Many of Barack Obama's supporters are famously waiting for the government largesse they expect him to shower on them. How will they react when they get whacked with a bigger electric bill instead?
Far from creating millions of new green jobs as Mr. Obama has promised, a Heritage Foundation study indicates that the higher costs would include a half-million lost jobs. The Investor's Business Daily sums it up nicely:
The lowest quintile income group would pay nearly double what the highest quintile income group would pay, as a proportion of income, in increased energy costs.
Is President-elect Barack Obama walking into a buzz saw? Events in Europe give cause for hope.
For several months, the nations of Europe have been notably backtracking from their previous promises of emissions reductions; the costs are just too high for struggling economies. Some European politicians, ever with their ear to the ground, are beginning to take notice of the changing climate - political and economic, that is. In Northern Ireland, no less a personage than the Environment Minister - the Environment Minister, of all people! - caused a furor by condemning green alarmism, as the BBC reported:
The Environment Minister Sammy Wilson has angered green campaigners by describing their view on climate change as a "hysterical pseudo-religion". In an article in the News Letter, Mr Wilson said he believed it occurred naturally and was not man-made. "Resources should be used to adapt to the consequences of climate change, rather than King Canute-style vainly trying to stop it," said the minister.
King Canute, as the classically-educated recall, was a legendary leader who instilled some much-needed humility in his government by going to the beach with his ministers and ostentatiously commanding the tide to stop coming in. It didn't, of course, and everybody's feet got wet, thus demonstrating that they were all mortal and that their powers were limited.
Barack Obama doesn't seem to understand this point quite yet; in his speech accepting the nomination, he proclaimed that "This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Holding back the sea by the sheer force of his rhetoric, he not having so much as taken office yet! Maybe he needed to spend more time on that beach in Hawaii watching the ebb and flow of the tide? Perhaps Mr. Wilson, living near the sea, is more familiar with the limitations of human power.
With the change in political tide comes the long-awaited backlash. The BBC has repeatedly been accused of bias in its tireless promotion of all causes green, and in so doing has accumulated a list of powerful enemies. One of them, Lord Monckton, is taking the opportunity for sweet revenge. His Lordship, a noted climate-change skeptic, was interviewed for a BBC documentary which was then heavily edited to make his views sound unjustified and ridiculous. (Sound familiar, Sarah Palin?)
In response to the almighty stink raised by His Nibs, an official government investigation is now under way. This has the potential to actually worry the BBC, considering that most of its budget comes from the British government in one way or another.
The ever-snarky independent British press has detected the new tone and gleefully redirected at least some of their satire against once-immune targets; even the IT newletter The Register took the opportunity to archly note: "Snow blankets London for Global Warming debate... Snow fell as the House of Commons debated Global Warming yesterday - the first October fall in the metropolis since 1922." God must have a sense of humor.
Even Australia is lending an ear to voices calling for moderation. The Sydney Morning Herald brings us an interesting article about the increasingly friendly reception climate-change "skeptics" are receiving in that country, despite the customary unanimous opposition of the mainstream press.
Maybe there's a "silent majority" of sanity even in the sands of the Land Down Under? Perhaps it's because they, too, have realized that their jobs are at risk.
When Barack Obama sends his diplomats to Europe bearing offerings to the Church of Environmental Extremism, he may find a different religion in charge of the altar. The rotating presidency of the European Union is now held by the Czech Republic, whose president, Vaclev Klaus, was an opponent of green extremism before skepticism was trendy. He understands global warming as an attempt to take control of people's lives and to take away their freedoms.
How is it that Pres. Klaus can see what so few others can? Remember: he spent his formative years and much of his adulthood fighting against totalitarian Communism. As he says, "If you lived under communism, then you are very sensitive to forces that try to control or limit human liberty."
One can't help but wonder what he'll say when he shakes hands with Barack Obama - or if he'll be allowed to. For true believers, "The debate is over!", and dissent amounts to sacrilege, but the sounds of protest are growing ever louder. Maybe we'll get a reformation?