“Ding dong, the witch is dead,” said Henry Payne in DetroitNews.com. Last week Senate Democrats officially abandoned their seven-year effort to pass “cap and trade” legislation that would have tackled climate change by regulating, and taxing, the carbon emissions of power plants and other private companies. This “dangerous legislation” was a huge overreaction to the highly speculative theory that human activities are changing the Earth’s climate in a catastrophic manner. If enacted, cap and trade would have significantly raised energy costs on U.S. businesses, just as they were struggling to emerge from the recession.
We’ll regret this decision, said Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. “We’ve basically decided to keep pumping greenhouse gases into Mother Nature’s operating system and take our chances that the results will be benign.” Someday, unfortunately, the climate-change deniers will “see how wrong they were,” as ice caps and glaciers melt, sea levels rise, and weather becomes more extreme. After this “undeniable defeat” for environmental wisdom, said the San Francisco Chronicle in an editorial, there still are some measures, scientific as well as legislative, that could yet avert catastrophe. “But none would match what the Senate just passed up: a national policy to greatly reduce the human contribution to climate change.”
Liberals have to share in the blame for killing this legislation, said Ross Douthat in The New York Times. Since the 1970s, environmentalists have issued a new warning about a coming apocalypse every five years or so. We were told by “experts” that population growth would cause mass starvation and the collapse of civilization. Then it was pollution that would destroy humankind, or perhaps it was the hole in the ozone layer. Disaster could only be averted by some “left-wing policy prescription,” such as birth control for the masses or harsh new regulations on industry. But “the catastrophes never materialized, and global living standards soared,” with the result that the public naturally grew skeptical about impending catastrophes. Now, there really is a solid scientific consensus that the world is getting hotter and that mankind is to blame. But after decades of crying wolf, liberals have their own lesson to learn: Rather than trying to pre-empt every crisis with sweeping new regulations, “sometimes it makes sense to wait, get richer, and then try to muddle through.”