Has the North American climate change movement decided that keeping Democrats in power in the US—and getting Conservatives out in Canada—is their priority for now? Along with the "deniers," are environmentalists putting partisan preferences before the "survival of life" as they know it?
Witnessing the follow-up to Obama’s airy speech on climate change this Tuesday would make a reasonable person wonder.
Obama introduced his message as: "a father" who believes in science and is too busy to meet with the Flat Earth Society. Accordingly, the Keystone pipeline, he declared, will not be permitted if he thinks it will “significantly exacerbate” carbon emissions. Also, his environment regulators will be instructed to negotiate carbon-emission reductions from existing US coal plants. On the 5-year-old Keystone application, he didn’t offer a clue about what more he’s waiting to learn. On coal, he didn’t define his negotiating objectives or demonstrate how the negotiations with coal states and corporations could be resolved before his term expires—let alone before next fall’s Congressional midterm elections.
Implicitly, Obama thinks America can meet its CO2 emission-reduction “targets” without a carbon tax, higher energy prices, another recession, or even additional Congressional action to expand the EPA’s regulatory authority. America can leave the job to him, his regulators, and his pencil-ready diplomats at the State Department.
Of course, there is not a conscientious economist, environmental expert, or citizen who has come of age since Bill Clinton and Jean Chrétien came to power in the early 90s who believes that Obama’s approach will do the job. Certainly, not one Canadian environment spokesperson believes that the Canadian government—pursuing the same tactics as Obama—can meet the same targets for Canada, even though Canada is twice blessed with clean renewable power.
Nevertheless, environmentalists in both countries publicly celebrated Obama's speech. What is going on here?
It was one thing to not raise coal emissions as an urgent issue during last year’s presidential election. It could have cost Obama Ohio and Pennsylvania—and, possibly, the presidency. Also, it’s reasonable to ignore right-wing nuts who think climate change is a Communist conspiracy—and, as well, avoid left-wing nuts who think pollution was invented by capitalism.
However, the climate change movement today seems less intent on demanding credible action in the US than it is in not embarrassing the Democrats politically.
This leads to silly and enfeebling behavior: laying down the law in Alberta where no one votes in US elections; damning "foreign" oil companies; and, most importantly, letting Obama get away with rhetoric and writing off the political weight and decisive potential importance of moderate conservative voices in Washington and in swing states.
Environmentalists are free to be as partisan as they wish. However, they should expect to be treated accordingly.