The public relations machine that works so hard to generate doubt about climate change and the extreme weather events it causes must have its hands full at this point. 2012 was a year in which the United States had no winter, a March with most of the country above 80 degrees F, floods in its three largest rivers, a horrific drought all summer, and now Hurricane Sandy, with its loss of life, tens of billions of dollars in damages, and incredible expense and inconvenience to many millions of people. I’m not sure how you get people not to notice something as obvious.
The fossil fuel industry is by far the most profitable in the history of humankind, and thus can afford the very best and loudest of voices to protect its interests. They’ve spent an utter fortune obscuring the facts concerning climate change, and they’ve been fantastically successful in confusing a huge segment of the American public. But at a certain point, they’ll find themselves unable to fend off a rising tide of public opinion that screams to its government, “Do something! Help us! You’re suppose to be our leaders!”
Keep in mind that we as a species are not powerless to deal with environmental issues on a global scale, as evidenced by the effectiveness with which we repaired the hole in the ozone layer when we discovered it in 1985. Granted, that fix (a ban on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)) was far easier than dealing with the current crisis. Having said that, the moment we agree to price in the externalities of the energy we produce and consume, e.g., the costs to human health and the natural environment, you’ll see an instantaneous explosion in the development of clean energy and efficiency solutions, along with stunning levels of conservation.
We could even emulate the Chinese, who, unlike the U.S., have a 21st Century Energy Plan, and are busily making it happen. They have decided that it’s tantamount to national suicide to sit around and act like us Americans, bickering about renewable energy, or, in the case of the presidential debates, pretending it doesn’t exist and ignoring it altogether. The Chinese are hard at work, implementing all kinds of cleantech wonders: ultra-high voltage electricity transmission, electric transportation, smart-grid, and dozens of other cutting-edge solutions that will propel them swiftly and irreversibly into the position of world economic leader.
But I predict that Americans will not tolerate this indefinitely. Many of us can observe things for ourselves, and ignore the garbage we’re being told. The people telling us to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” are rapidly running just as low on credibility as did the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.