Colbert skewers the climate fatalism caucus

Jan 30, 2013 by

By David Roberts

The Colbert Report had a wicked segment on climate change last night:

The first conservative line of defense against climate action is outright denial that climate change exists. The second is that the climate is changing, but it’s not our fault and won’t be so bad and isn’t worth worrying about. Both those are getting tougher, what with all the crazy weather and increasingly shrill warnings from scientists, so it looks like cons are now falling back to their third line of defense: there’s nothing we can do about it. This can take the shape of the “sophisticated objection” I wrote about earlier. Or it can take the shape of the rather-less-sophisticated “China! China!” stuff Colbert so artfully skewers.

Some of this, perhaps, has to do with the ascension of Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) to ranking member on the Environment and Public Works Committee. He just introduced a bill that would prohibit the U.S. from cutting its emissions until China, India, and Russia have “proposed, implemented, and enforced measures requiring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emission reductions.” (It’s from a paywalled E&E story so I’m not even linking.)

The inclusion of Russia is a clever move on Vitter’s part. Its emissions are already way lower than they were 20 years ago, and it’s wallowing in natural gas, so that chances that it will take concerted action on climate any time soon are all but nil.

Meanwhile, China already is acting. It has established a carbon trading system. It is leading the world in investments in clean energy. It’s building lots of coal plants too, of course, but they are supercritical plants; meanwhile, it’s knocking down the oldest, dirtiest coal plants.

Of course China is also bringing millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class, so its emissions are growing faster than ours. But if the U.S. did as much as China is doing, the world would be a much better place. Somehow that news seems to have done nothing to alter the kneejerk protests of conservatives.

But, eh, I’m talking substance. And this isn’t about substance. It’s just about finding what objection to climate action works in the moment. Protecting fossil fuel interests is primary; the rhetoric is just something for journalists and nerds to chew on.

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