After pushing manmade global warming for years, the folks at Newsweek appear to be cooling on the idea.
Prominently placed at the front page of the magazine's website Monday was a large, overhead picture of what appeared to be a golf fairway or park with the following headline in green:
A Green Retreat: Why the Environment is No Longer a Surefire Political Winner
Following two of the harshest winters on record in the Northern Hemisphere-not to mention an epic economic crisis-voters no longer consider global warming a priority. Just 42 percent of Germans now worry about climate change, down from 62 percent in 2006. In Australia, only 53 percent still consider it a pressing issue, down from 75 percent in 2007. Americans rank climate change dead last of 21 problems that concern them most, according to a January Pew poll. Last month Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, blasting climate change as a "sideshow" to global economic issues, canceled the meeting of environment ministers that has preceded the G8 or G20 summit every year but one since 1994. Merkel has slashed green-development aid in the latest round of budget cuts, while in Washington, Barack Obama seems to have cooled on his plan to cap emissions. In perhaps the most striking momentum reversal for environmental politicians, last month Rudd became the first leader to be destroyed by his green policies. Flip-flopping over planned emissions cuts as the opposition exploited Australian voters' flagging support for climate measures, he was finally ousted by party rebels.
After discussing some of the politics involved at local levels around the globe, author Stefan Theil started pointing out the really inconvenient truths Nobel Laureate Al Gore has hidden from his followers:
Increasingly, the whole concept of radical, top-down global targets is coming under scrutiny as citizens and governments face tougher choices over costs and benefits. Green policies can be popular when they mean subsidizing renewable fuels or going after unpopular power companies, but can quickly hit a wall when they force lifestyle change, such as less driving and fewer swimming pools-fears Rudd's opponents have exploited. Policies that push trendy green fuels also cost much more than other options, such as replacing dirty coal with cleaner gas or emissions-free nuclear power. Some schemes, such as America's corn ethanol and Europe's biodiesel made from rapeseed, have virtually zero net emissions savings, but any petroleum they displace is quickly bought up by China. Even in the ideal case that the United Nations' goal of 80 percent emissions reduction by 2050 is technologically and politically feasible, economists disagree widely on whether the cost of the current set of policies, such as carbon caps and green-fuel subsidies, is justified by the avoided damage from warmer temperatures.
But here's what should really grab the attention of those that either believe this myth or are still on the fence:
In many ways, green projects have become just another flavor of grubby interest politics. Biofuels have become a new label for old-style agricultural subsidies that funnel some $20 billion annually to landowners with little effect on emissions (only Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol produces any significant savings; America's corn ethanol and Europe's biodiesel do not). Germany's solar subsidies, a signature project in the country's battle against climate change, are perhaps the most wasteful green scheme on earth, producing a mere 0.25 percent of the country's energy at a cost to consumers of as much as $125 billion. A leading member of Merkel's Christian Democrats in the German Parliament says there is growing unease both in his party and in the Bundestag "about the scary monster we've created that is sucking up ever larger amounts of money for a negligible effect." [...]
With green politics losing its moral high ground, there is a growing realization that climate change is just one policy priority among many that compete for limited resources and attention. That means, first, that climate politics will likely fall off its pedestal of being the Western world's overarching priority. Second, the new sobriety could give more space to a third stream of climate politics between those who see warming as an unmitigated catastrophe that must be stopped at any cost, and those who reject global warming as a hoax. A new climate realism would more carefully weigh the costs and benefits of emissions controls, and look at other options beyond the current set of targets. The new debate will be more pragmatic and include a broader mix of policies. That might include a shift of subsidies into research and development, as many climate economists have argued. It would also include greater efforts to adapt society to a warmer climate, rather than focusing only on stopping the warming process in its tracks.
Those that have been following this debate from a grander perspective than what is typically presented by global warming-obsessed media know that climate realists have been saying this for years.
Sociologists and economists from around the world have argued that moneys currently being devoted to try to "stop this problem" could be far better spent in ways that would more greatly impact citizens on every continent.
But as Theil pointed out:
That idea has so far figured little in the debate, largely because mainstream environmentalists fear it will distract from their push for CO2 cutbacks. Yet adaptation may offer equally valid and much less expensive choices than cutting back on emissions.
Imagine that: man could adapt to a changing environment more cheaply than trying -- likely with little to no success! -- to prevent the change:
In other words, some of the money spent on current policies that often have only limited efficacy might be better spent on other measures, including protection against the worst effects of warming. What's more, current economic worries are a reminder that every dollar spent on solar cells or biodiesel is a dollar less for education and other budget priorities.
So why the change of heart?
Was it evidence that the weather really isn't cooperating with the desires and computer model-driven predictions of the alarmists?
Did last year's ClimateGate scandal, despite the relative lack of press it got here in the states, open up some eyes as to the modus operandi and the deviousness of those spreading the myth?
Did revelations concerning misreporting and truly bad science employed by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change contributors weaken the resolve of believers?
Or was it all the controversy surrounding the Green Messiah Al Gore's new home purchase in Montecito quickly followed by a separation from his wife and allegations of a four-year-old sex scandal?
Or is it merely a consequence of a struggling economy and a federal government trying to figure out ways to finance all its current commitments without the additional burden of environmental spending?
Whatever the reason or combination thereof, Americans should hope that this isn't just a brief moment of sanity, and that Newsweek isn't going to quickly reverse course once someone wakes up Monday morning and realizes what's been so prominently placed at the front page of its website.