By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
I'm just back from the grocery store as a big winter storm is heading for Washington, D.C.—they're predicting a foot of snow, which is a lot for here—and of course I had to stock up on bread, milk, chocolate chip cookies and toilet paper, like half of town is doing this morning. As I was unloading the car and bringing in extra firewood, I listened to the reporting from the climate change summit in Copenhagen. (Or as the commentators have started calling it, Cope-en-HOG-en, just like PAHK-ee-ston, and Off-GHON-ee-ston—have you noticed lately? What's up with that? It reminds me of the mid-1980s when the news was from Nicaragua on the Sandinistas, and all the reporters got fake Spanish accents. Remember SNL did a spoof of it, featuring sports reporters interviewing Bob Costas but calling him Bob COE-stas? Hilarious.)
Anyway, it sounds like the summit is unraveling quickly, and there may not be any agreement at all. The administration and some on the left will be frustrated, but I bet a lot of Americans are just fine with it. Not that people aren't worried about the environment, it's just a question of what to do about it and at what cost. This morning's Washington Post has a new poll out that confirms this.
According to the Post, most Americans "oppose a widely floated proposal in which the United States and other industrialized countries would contribute $10 billion a year to help developing countries pay for reducing the amount of greenhouse gases they release. Overall, 57 percent of those polled oppose this idea; 39 percent support it." This is because 1. once again, here's another gazillion-dollar proposal funded by taxpayers; 2. it doesn't produce any jobs to get us out of this recession and 3. no one knows if it will actually work.
The reason we don't trust that any of these proposals will actually work is because those E-mails between climate-change scientists that got hacked into at a British university confirmed what a lot of us suspected—that the scientists involved are overstating their case at best and manipulating the data at worst. So it's no surprise that the Post poll reports that 4 in 10 Americans place "little or no trust" in what scientists have to say about the environment now, a jump from even two years ago. Even more, 6 in 10 Americans, don't think there's any agreement even among the scientists who do this for a living. So why should the rest of us jump on board?
Another aspect of this is communications. The Democrats could make a compelling case for reducing greenhouse gasses and the possible long-term benefits for doing so, both in terms of our national security and our natural environment—but instead, all we seem to hear about is carbon taxes, cap-and-trade energy taxes, and surtaxes on our heating bills. Yesterday I had a new high-efficiency furnace installed at our house after the old clunker died. The fact that I'll get a $1,500 tax credit for the new one eased the pain of having to write that check a week before Christmas. The point is, I'm much happier with the carrot of a tax credit (and less energy use) than the stick of a surcharge on my heating bill or a carbon tax.
I wrote that the Democrats could make the case for "possible" long-term benefits, because I'm not completely convinced that all long-term changes in the weather are caused by humans. A snow storm can just be a snow storm. I'm looking forward to this one.