I’ve always thought Churchill’s great phrase about the disarmament talks of the 1930s — “a prolonged and solemn farce” — applied even more to the whole Kyoto-global warming process. And judging from the reactions that Stephen Spruiell compiled below, the candid environmentalists regard Obama as the climate equivalent of Neville Chamberlain coming home from Munich with an empty piece of paper. The collapse of Copenhagen exceeded my wildest expectations; I was sure they’d figure out a way to paper together enough of a framework to keep hope alive for a treaty next year in Mexico City, but they didn’t even manage this minimal facade. Expect greens to begin more openly to attack Obama, whose speech I thought appeared listless and unconvincing even before the dismal outcome.
Taking the long view, I expect that 20 or 30 years from now, environmentalists will look back on global warming (no matter what actually happens with or to the climate) as the issue that ate their movement alive, and Copenhagen as the turning point. I had an interesting and revealing conversation with a leading environmental reporter a few days ago where I laid out this thesis, much to her amazement. So I gave the following example: The Framework Convention on Climate Change, which launched the whole Kyoto process, was one of only two large initiatives of the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio. The other was the Convention on Biodiversity, which the U.S. and everyone else also signed, pledging major action on protecting habitat, establishing a secretariat and a process just like Kyoto with its own COP meetings, with the year 2010 set as a time for major progress to have been made. If climate change never happens, species extinction and biodiversity disruption will continue, because their primary driver is population growth and development. Ever hear anything about the biodiversity convention? Any press coverage of the biodiversity COP meetings? Do environmentalist NGOs swarm to those COP meetings like Woodstock? Anyone have any idea how this whole issue is going? Progress or regress? Any successor agreements or efforts under way? The reporter I said this to was completely unfamiliar with the biodiversity convention, whereupon I said she made my point rather powerfully, adding that she really ought to consider herself a global-warming reporter rather than an environmental reporter. I doubt I got quoted; I never checked. Here Churchill comes in handy again, for his definition of a fanatic: someone who can’t change their mind and won’t change the subject.
I am told that I’ll show up a lot in the Fox News documentary on global warming that is scheduled to run Sunday evening at 9 pm eastern. Most of it was taped a while ago, though, before Climategate.