Hit & Run

Robert Samuelson on the Political Grandstanding Over Global Warming


Today, Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson is basically agreeing with what I've been saying for years about how politicians will not risk tanking their countries' economies to avoid man-made global warming. As Samuelson forcefully puts it:

The dirty secret about global warming is this: We have no solution. About 80 percent of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), the main sources of man-made greenhouse gases. Energy use sustains economic growth, which -- in all modern societies -- buttresses political and social stability. Until we can replace fossil fuels or find practical ways to capture their emissions, governments will not sanction the deep energy cuts that would truly affect global warming.

Considering this reality, you should treat the pious exhortations to "do something" with skepticism, disbelief or contempt. These pronouncements are (take your pick) naive, self-interested, misinformed, stupid or dishonest.

Throwing any modesty aside, I will point to two 2004 columns in which I analyze how the interrelationships between politics, economics and global warming are likely to play out here and here. In addition, Samuelson is right that technological innovation, not energy rationing, is the "solution" to climate change as I argued here. Finally, I note that I am generally much nicer when describing the motivations of politicians than is Samuelson. I suspect that he hangs out with a lot more of them than I do.