Is President Obama representing the United States at the Paris climate conference, or is he chasing his personal legacy? Though The New York Times has called Obama an “improbable environmental champion,” noting his late-to-the-party green allegiance, it seems that he has caught the bug.
Given that his other legacy achievements like Obamacare and the Iran nuclear deal are proving unpopular, and given his widely criticized lack of leadership in confronting terrorism, it may be that trying to rein in carbon emissions is the only game left for the foundering Commander in Chief.
This one, too, lacks broad backing from voters. Americans have shown themselves delightfully dogged in their skepticism about climate change and the need for government action to prevent it. Though they are inundated daily with claims that storms, diseases, droughts – and even terrorism – are the inevitable result of a warming earth, when even the Pope admonishes the faithful to better care for the planet and the president sternly lectures that climate change is the most pressing issue of our time – level-headed Americans resist.
Environmentalists would have you believe otherwise. For instance, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll generates this Times headline: “Two-Thirds of Americans Would Back a Binding Global Treaty.” That seems pretty conclusive, until you review the rest of the survey. When asked how concerned they are about global warming or climate change, 45 percent of respondents said they worry a “great deal – 15 percent” or a “fair amount -30 percent” – while 56 percent said they worry “only a little” or “not at all.” Boom – there goes Obama’s consensus that the earth’s warming is our most urgent problem.
Americans pay lip service to environmental concerns and want to prevent climate change, but only if it is painless. While nearly two-thirds say they favor limiting carbon emissions from U.S. power plants, 79 percent oppose increasing taxes to reduce the use of electricity and 60 percent don’t want to raise taxes on gasoline to cut back on driving. What the poll says is: sure, work on limiting emissions, but don’t expect me to pay for it. As more voters come to realize that reining in emissions from our power plants will drive up electricity prices, and is in effect just like raising taxes, enthusiasm for President Obama’s EPA regulations targeting coal-fired plants will wane. At the moment, the costs of the measures backed by the White House are invisible; they will not be for long. Republicans will campaign on this pocketbook issue, and they will win.
How do I know? We already see that people in the United States are wising up. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that 63 percent think global warming is a serious threat, down from 69 percent a year ago, but only 47 percent said the government should do more about the problem, compared to 61 percent and 70 percent who favored more activism in 2008 and 2007, respectively.
Perhaps the most surprising (and heartening) discovery in recent polling is that only 43 percent of the country thinks that scientists agree about climate change, while more than half considers the issue still unsettled. That’s an astonishing conclusion, given the derision heaped on so-called “deniers” who challenge climate orthodoxy. The efforts to punish those in the scientific community who dare doubt that manmade emissions are raising global temperatures have been widely reported.
Billions of dollars are at stake -- grants and donations to those whose careers depend on climate activism, subsidies for green energy….
Media outlets including the BBC, the L.A. Times and Popular Science have refused to publish articles suggesting alternative reasons for the earth’s apparent warming. Rarely has a topic become such a litmus test for academics, but then billions of dollars are at stake -- grants and donations to those whose careers depend on climate activism, subsidies for green energy, political campaigns focused on the issue.
Why aren’t Americans playing ball?
First, President Obama’s credibility has waned. His numerous and intentionally deceptive claims are listed by Politifact, and include 50 lies. Here are 5.
- “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”
- "We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas."
- "Fast and Furious began under the Bush administration.”
- If the Supreme Court throws out the federal health care law, it "would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."
- "I didn't raise taxes once."
Second, the true costs of a “green” agenda have become apparent, especially in Europe. As countries tried to regroup in the wake of the financial crisis, some tossed their expensive alternative energy programs overboard in order to become competitive. In Germany, electricity costs are about four times higher than in the U.S., which is one of the reasons German companies have been investing in the U.S. Generally, people living in the EU pay twice as much for electricity as we do in the United States.
Third, President Obama has a poor track record of negotiating on behalf of the United States. In the Iran nuclear deal and in our dealings with Cuba, for instance, many believe the White House gave away the store. Americans are and should be skeptical of any bargain struck in Paris. A guidepost is the virtually meaningless pledge made last year by China that their emissions would peak in 2030. This was hailed as a “landmark achievement” even though the level at which China’s carbon output would top out was not specified, and even though it was clearly political pressure from within that prodded the grudging promise.
In the months since, it has come to light that Beijing has been dishonest about how much coal China is burning today, and that it is has in the past year permitted the building of 155 new coal-fired power plants, with the capacity equivalent to 123 gigawatts, or 61 Hoover dams. China’s position is not surprising; they are expected to pursue their self- interest, and they do. That’s what Americans hope President Obama will do, too. Unfortunately, history suggests otherwise.