19 January 2010

The End of Magical Climate Thinking

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of The Breakthrough Institute (where I am a Senior Fellow) have an absolutely excellent piece on climate policy and politics in Foreign Policy titled, "The End of Magical Climate Thinking." Here is how it begins:

There was good reason to be hopeful in January 2009 that the election of Barack Obama would bring about America's long-awaited clean energy revolution. As president-elect, Obama had started to talk about energy policy in a way that no leader of either U.S. party had before. Promising to save the country from both severe recession and industrial decline, Obama described the transformation of the United States' energy economy as a defining challenge of his presidency -- an economic and national security imperative that Congress would fail to address at the country's peril.

But the reality fell far short of expectations. The Obama administration succumbed, like many others, to a sort of magical climate thinking that promised a painless and even prosperous transition to a low-carbon future with the tools already at hand. The only official within his administration to accurately grasp the technology challenges faced, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, was sidelined at crucial moments.

Here is the back story of how the Obama administration dramatically raised and then dashed America's -- and the world's -- hopes that 2009 would be a pivotal year for remaking our collective energy future.

You will no find a better analysis of U.S. climate politics anywhere. Have a look, and feel free to return here to discuss and debate.