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An Environmentalism of Doubt (The Return?)



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Economic pressures may be causing a rethink in a number of European countries about how far they want to pursue their CO2 agenda. That the Italian and the Polish governments are concerned by the possible effects of overly onerous legislation isn’t any great surprise, but it’s worth paying attention to the comments by Germany’s Angela Merkel which you can see reported here:

TRIESTE, Italy -(Dow Jones)- Italy and Germany agree that measures to cut greenhouse gases shouldn’t weigh on the economy, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a press conference Tuesday, indicating government support for tough new measures in Europe is waning.

Any new European Union decisions on climate change and energy “must be taken in such a way as to not weigh on industry” in Europe, she said at a press conference televised live by Sky Italia.

Italy, Poland and a few other nations in mid-October threatened to veto ambitious new E.U. goals to fight climate change slated to be approved at the end of this year, saying that the measures were expensive. Italy asked for a new assessment of costs, and for more flexibility in their implementation.

Germany’s public support of Italy’s position means that E.U. leaders may find it harder to get the package approved this year, as scheduled. Merkel said the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 20% in 2020 remains an important goal, but that a “compromise that respects principles” must be found.

“Italy and Germany have grown nearer” on energy issues in recent months.

What’s most interesting about all this is the chancellor’s implicit recognition that climate change is not, perhaps, the imminently irreversible catastrophe that sometimes seems to claimed (if Merkel really thought it was, she surely wouldn’t allow herself to be distracted by our current economic woes). That in turn might pave the way for a more measured approach to the question of climate change. Is there a case (if only precautionary) to encourage a gradual reduction in carbon emissions? Of course (and there’s also a strong national security rationale for tackling America’s reliance on oil), and it’s a good one, but it will be made all the better if its advocates can shelve the language of apocalypse, hairshirt, and cult. Perhaps the wretched economic situation will give them a face-saving opportunity to do just that.  


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