Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Climate Opinion
Having followed the issue of climate change during my corporate career and subsequently, I've become convinced that the key issue--at least in terms of action on climate change by the US--is not the science, but the public's perception of the problem. A friend sent me a link to a survey suggesting that the American public remains in a confused muddle concerning global warming and possible responses to combat it. If this is accurate, then the prospects for changing the current policy of relative indifference are poor, barring some catastrophe that can be directly attributed to climate change.

Given increasingly strong evidence that the climate is changing due to human actions, and given consensus in Europe and elsewhere that firm action is required, one might think that our political leaders might be motivated to lead, here. Politicians used to be willing to get out ahead of public opinion on something like this, not just because they thought it was the right thing to do, but because they believed that the personal consequences of inaction would be severe, once the public caught up. However, it's not apparent that our elected officials are at much risk of being voted out of office for having been wrong about something with big consequences. While we may have lots of commissions and embarrass the heck out of them, that's about the end of the line in accountability.

This must sound pretty cynical, and I suppose it is, but it brings me back to my basic premise that until the US public has a clear enough picture of this very complicated issue to want to undertake significant changes in their own lifestyles, it's unlikely that the federal government will do much to deal with it. Perhaps some of the money being spent lobbying on climate change in Washington would be better spent educating voters.

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