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Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti


Carbon and climate change: Why are we behind?

Q: Now that even China has put a price on carbon emissions, the U.S. is the only major economy yet to take action on global warming. Why does this issue seem to defy political leadership? Who, in your opinion, is MOST responsible for the leadership failure--President Obama and Senate leaders for not forcing a deal? Republicans unwilling to consider anything that might raise energy prices? Coal and oil state Democrats? Republican moderates who bowed to conservative pressure?

Posted by Steve Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti on August 3, 2010 10:18 AM

chatard: We are not falling behind on curbing carbon emissions. We have led the world in curbing carbon emissions for decades. The writers who pose...

Bugs222: Who's to blame? We can start with the liars and disinformers of the fossil fuel industry and their phony think tanks and media whores like ...

dbusch77: You people have convinced yourselves that there is some kind of 'crisis' here that requires drastic action. Just because you choose to enga...

Make a Comment  |  All Comments (46)

abal Author Profile Page :

We have not reached a stage where we are ready to acknowledge "we admit we were powerless over oil — that our lives had become unmanageable."

HIMALAYAN Author Profile Page :

Law Makers can be driven by strong public opinion.

dougd1 Author Profile Page :

Because the republican party is corrupt and in bed with the oil industry (as are some democrats). As a result, republicans have tried to mislead our citizens by dishonestly criticizing the global-warming science. Although 96% of the experts (i.e., climatologists) believe in human-influenced global warming, republican hacks, such as the WaPo columnist George Will, have criticized the science, even though they are politically biased and have no expertise whatsoever.

It is natural for many people to fall prey to these lies, and thus support for legislation has declined and we have fallen behind the more intelligent countries. It should be noted that this is not limited to the oil industry or economic consequences. Republicans have attacked other areas of science that threaten their political agenda: evolution, medicine, psychiatric disorders, among others.

JohnMD1022 Author Profile Page :

It's a HOAX and a FRAUD.

jimhill1 Author Profile Page :

Well, for those of you singing the Melting Earth Blues, if you feel so sure, why don't you run for office, spend tons of money, replace all those corrupt and ignorant skeptics, and ramrod this nonsense down America's throat like you did with ObamaCare? Then you can get tossed out of office, resume your endless babbling, and the world will be a better place.

jonas707 Author Profile Page :

1. The argument over climate change and this carbon tax bill are not connected. They do influence each other, but they need not be intertwined.

Whether you believe in the science behind climate change or not, this is not an argument over melting glaciers, this is an argument over next gen energy tech. Whether we like it or not, and whether our economy can handle it or not, the oil will run out someday. It is far better we plan and prepare for it than simply carrying on as if there is an infinite supply. Not to mention the national security issues of sending billions in profit to the worst dictators on earth. Us switching to clean energy production will do more to destabilize abhorent regimes than a million smart bombs.

What I still cant wrap my head around is why the "right" screams that the free market can do anything and everything, except develop clean energy. This is THE emerging market of the next century, and when China is beating you to it, there is reason to worry.

Our free market economy is the best in the world, but it needs to be pushed in the right direction (which is where the govt and this carbon tax come in) to counteract the substantial pushing back that the affected industries (big oil and coal and co.) are already engaging in.

Clean energy is the future, not coal and oil, why not save a few mountaintops and explore what our substantial innovation can accomplish? Don't sell our collective creativity short Republicans, we can do it!

joe27 Author Profile Page :

The United States is a country hostile to intellect and science. This hostility is reflected in the constant repudiation of proven analysis on the nature of life and the state of our planet. America moves ever closer to complete collapse, owing to the stupidity of its citizens and the foolishness of its politicians.

jojo4 Author Profile Page :

Maybe if we tie ropes on the front of our vehicles and let donkeys pull us up I-95 to work every day.

larrybuchas Author Profile Page :

Just another excuse from the "heads in the sand" crowd during the last 40 years.

Who didn't take a Science course in either high school or college without addressing climate change, pollution and ignorance?

Even after the worst oil spill, nothing has changed until the tsunamis, floods, earthquakes and category 5 hurricanes reach our shores.

The blame lies with the system and the U.S. Senate. Unless we throw out the filibuster rule or heaven forbid, the two parties negotiate over cocktails.

dgra Author Profile Page :

We have no leadership on the issue is correct. But that's because we have total "theoretical" action instead of addressing the issue in an incremental fashion. Same as health care--absolutely no middle road because our leadership has never "executed" a plan other than talk about it.

simpleton1 Author Profile Page :

Washington won't act because the country doesn't want it to. Global warming sits in our blind spot. It's a perfect example of the type of problem our political system simply can't handle -- a largely abstract, expensive, science-based problem with long term costs spread out across society. The short term benefits of doing nothing inure to a small group of motivated actors. So nothing happens.

AndrewDover Author Profile Page :

Your claim "Even China has put a price on carbon emissions" is just not true.

The backing article just says that an agreement in principle was reached, but the specifics were NOT DECIDED:

"The consensus that a domestic carbon-trading scheme is essential was reached, but a debate is still ongoing among experts and industries regarding what approach should be adopted," the source said."

If your claim was true, you could tell me the carbon price that was set.

If you can't represent an article correctly, no wonder your other arguments should be taken with a grain of salt.

Q) Why no Carbon cap and trade bill?
A1) It is being delayed until after the election.

A2) It was too complicated a bill. Just pass a 20 cent gasoline tax, and a similar amount on coal/natural gas and have a 3 page bill. The government needs the money.

flonzy1 Author Profile Page :

We have several major hypocrisies in our system of energy.

1) We refuse to go nuclear like the EU has done. It is the most efficient and cost effective way to boost the power grid without carbon and massive land use, when I say massive land use what I mean is one nuke plant needs 70 square miles of wind turbines to make the same amount of energy. Even more land is needed for solar.

2) Diesel vehicles are more fuel efficient than normal gas vehicles and diesel hybrids are more fuel efficient than normal hybrids yet we refuse to give up the extra tax on diesel get that car market opened up. Frankly buying a slightly used VW Jetta diesel is far more cost effective and gets better gas mileage than a Toyota Prius which cost way too much money. Sadly in the end the industrial pollution of making and operating a Jetta is even better for the environment than the Pruis. Cars made in Europe meet far stricter pollution standards than those made in Asia on the factory side not to mention raw materials side. If the green crowd really looked into the pollution on making the Prius batteries and the oil used in the factories and in shipping the car over the ocean several times in production they would cringe at their own hypocrisy.

3) Carbon credits don't work to reduce carbon usage. If people can buy a cheap indulgence to feel better about their pollution they don't stop polluting. We need to stop backing this idea, the EU is ready to drop this sort of thing after 15 years and move to straight up carbon taxing; we should be the world leaders and enact a carbon tax first. Then we would see some real progress in reducing carbon.

kiddush18 Author Profile Page :

Given the political paralysis, it may be necessary to sidestep the issue. One option might be to encourage the work of the firms like "Better Place," which is creating systems of battery-powered cars in Israel, Denmark, and elsewhere to reduce the dependence on petroleum. For details on this company's projects, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Better_Place

SSTK34 Author Profile Page :

I pray that the US never signs up to be a part of this fraud. Man-made climate change is a myth and is the greatest hoax in history.

AG11 Author Profile Page :

ManBearPig is not real.

pgr88 Author Profile Page :

After the fraud on "AGW" data was exposed at East Anglia Univ. that the poor science at NOAA and IPCC were revealed - it is absolutely amazing to me that people still have the gall to turn back on the spin-machine and fraud that is man-made global warming.

On the other hand though, Wall Street and Gov't want the $Trillions to be gained by creating and gaming a corrupt "carbon trading scheme" so we shouldn't be too surprised.

alan25 Author Profile Page :

Obama had choices. He had to address the financial meltdown and financial reform. No choice there. In addition, he had enough political capital left for one big thing. He could have addressed the global climate emergency or he could have addressed the long-festering gap between our country and every other developed nation in providing health care. He chose the latter. I understand why, though I would have chosen differently, but the problem is that the health of the planet is now in greater jeopardy, not just the health of one sector of a nation.

dozas Author Profile Page :

We are behind because of our collective greed. And, it does not make any difference whether one believes in climate change or not: in the end, we will all pay the price of our greed. By our inaction, we will accelerate our own hell on earth.

BethesdaResident Author Profile Page :

I am not a true believer in the man-made climate change debate. Climate change has been naturally occurring phenomenon for millennia, man's affect on it, if any, is strictly based on theory. However, I do strongly believe that we need to clean up pollution and end our dependence upon fossil fuels. For me the key difference is not focusing on carbon, a naturally occurring element in air mostly in the form of carbon dioxide that’s critical for photosynthesis. It is how we address reducing pollution, a battle we have fought since the 1960s with significant gains!

Do raise the taxes on fuel. Use the extra funds for alternative energy research, to subsidize alternative energy (as a bridge towards cost equity) and to reduce existing inefficiencies in the system (wasted energy in transportation of goods, services and people, power distribution and related efforts).

However a tax on energy is less politically acceptable than the whole carbon trading pricing scheme. Carbon trading is an esoteric idea that political strategists figure voters don’t understand so it can’t hurt politicians in their reelection campaigns. The problem is that carbon trading is a very inefficient way to reduce pollution. It will likely cause the transfer of trillions of dollars without clear connections to reducing pollution. A boon for politicians’ pet projects which often end up on the pages of stories of tax payer dollars wasted.

Stay with the original principle of Earth Day – we want to eliminate pollution and harmonize human impacts with the natural system. Carbon trading is not the answer.

lddoyle2002 Author Profile Page :

I agree that collective greed is behind most of our inaction. Obama promised to pass legislation, but the Dems in Congress have backed off. Don't expect Republicans to ever do anything about carbon and climate change as they are completely beholden to the polluting corporations. I live in Texas, and this state is a living and breathing example of this which is why we have dirty air here. Don't forget, we are the home of Smokey Joe Barton, Rick Perry, Kay B. Hutchinson and John Cornyn who fight tooth and nail for the air polluters.

alance Author Profile Page :

We're still in the beginning of an economic depression and over half the population is against carbon taxes. Our oil refineries need to produce more diesel fuel and we need to insist GM, Chrysler and Ford produce the new super-efficient diesel engines.

There is much we could do to address deforestation in our own part of the world. Guatemala and other Central American nations are in desperate need to plant more trees and find substitutes for cooking with firewood. Soil erosion from tropical storms has been dreadful there this summer. Hundreds of bridges have been destroyed with thousands of landslides all over.

markandbeth92 Author Profile Page :

There is not one good reason to create a carbon tax.... Not one.
There is no need to hamstring our economy and hurt the poor and middle class with and artificial infaltion of the price of everything... for nothing. Nothing good will come from a carbon tax. Not one good thing. It will not change the temp of the earth. It will not feed hungry children.. it will only TAKE hard earned money and put it in the hands of crooks to waste.

It is a usless cruel thing to do.

illogicbuster Author Profile Page :

Why is the U.S. "behind"? Hmm, probably because the carbon trading/cap type of scam has already been exposed as fraudulent and ineffective in the EU? There won't be any similar scam laws passed in the U.S. Move along now.

ssuser Author Profile Page :

The democrats in the house have already passed climate legislation with critical carbon emission controls (e.g., cap and trade) as the focal point and senate democrats would do likewise, but for the ever present republican/conservative/ neocon/right wing (call them what you will)obstruction/filibuster threats. Republi- cans as an entity care not a wit about what's good and necessary for the country/the world, in fact global survival, being totally beholden as they are to the oil and coal industries and therefore non believers in the crucial need for any type of climate control legislation. The only way such legisla-tion will ever become a reality is with democratic senate gains sufficient to choke off republican filibusters or democratic rules changes to eliminate the filibuster and permit the same majority vote in the senate to pass legislation as we have in the house.

alwaysAlabama Author Profile Page :

Seriously, it is all about making money, the climate is not been held into consideration, because dollars do not fall from the sky. Whatever is generated into the atmosphere has nothing to do without profit. When the big one hit again and again the business associates may cease to exist.

kbenston Author Profile Page :

Climate-change denial, corporate self-interest, and wingnut obstructionism are as as 'natural' as ozone. So responsibility lies with the American public, which willfully ignores the truth and focuses on irrelevant distractions and short-term concerns and with political leadership, which refuses to exert its social and moral authority in the name of the common good. President Obama, in particular, as he who enjoys the greatest pulpit through which to move the populace, has failed. Halfway measures are nothing to trumpet; only full-scale focus on this critical issue can be taken seriously.

awofw Author Profile Page :

Our economy is a mixed model, but still incorporates significant components of what was once historically described as capitalism.

And one of capitalism's propulsion grade strengths, is it's ability to take without paying for the take, to destroy without paying for the destruction.

To cost out and include payment of some form in the financial equation for environmental costs incurred, undermines one of the key the propulsion strengths of capitalism and systems which incorporate aspects of capitalism in their economies.

MickNamVet Author Profile Page :

Climate change will not happen easily in the USA because Americans are basically spoiled little kids, with no thought for tomorrow, nor even for what their grandchildren's needs might be. Clean air and sufficient water will be a distant dream for the US citizens of 2050. Mark my words.

jfv123 Author Profile Page :

Climate change is the biggest threat to us since Y2K when all the computers in the world blew up.

I was at an Apple store yesterday. They are selling computers. I guess they finally fixed the Y2K bug.

Must be the first computters since 2000. People miss their computers so much customers were standing in line outside the store waiting to get in.

The lines outside the Apple store reminded me of photos of a fictitious place called the Soviet Union that must have had a lot of Apple stores, because there were always lines outside the stores. Apparently, lots of people in the last century believed this Soviet Union country would dominate the world and would bury us, because they had this cool new economic system where the Government could just pass laws and all the workers would live in paradise (once they got off the line).

I remember that, because the story had a happy ending. Turns out the Soviet Union was just a country called Russia. A guy named Ronald Reagan discovered that fraud and once he told everyone about it, this Soviet Union country closed down and everyone had a big laugh, because it was just hapless Russia all along playing a joke.

I heard Reagan himself was elected President, because this guy named Jimmy Carter told everyone the earth was getting sold and scientists were telling him the world would run out of oil in ten years, or maybe it was hat all the oil was going to be burried under thousand foot high Glaciers - I forget which - it may have been both. Anyway, this Carter guy went on TV and told everyone to buy sweaters to keep warm. That set off this inflation thing, because everyone ran out at the same time and tried to buy sweaters to keep warm, which drove up the price of sweaters aad apparently everything else. Who knew sweaters were so important?

That inflation thing created something called the misery Index, which scared the hell out of everyone, because it was so high, but then started falling after this Jimmy guy went on vacation, because prices for sweaters fell when the world didn't run out of oil and the Glaciers thing didn't happen like Jimmy said it would.

But I digress. We really need to save ourselves from this climate change thing. It took ten years to get the computers back after Y2K. I can't live without climate that long. What will we do? Even sweaters won't save us.

lufrank1 Author Profile Page :

Sigh . . . .
Unfortunately ignorance of the FUNDAMENTAL destructive force in Global Warming, deforestation, overfishing, immigration unrest, is beyond the grasp of MOST people!
ERGO- the exponential growth of the human population...and we still congratulate a mother and dad who have LARGE numbers of children!

The stupid adherence to DARK AGE Religious DOGMA is also to blame!

lufrank1 Author Profile Page :

Sigh . . . .
Unfortunately ignorance of the FUNDAMENTAL destructive force in Global Warming, deforestation, overfishing, immigration unrest, is beyond the grasp of MOST people!
ERGO- the exponential growth of the human population...and we still congratulate a mother and dad who have LARGE numbers of children!

The stupid adherence to DARK AGE Religious DOGMA is also to blame!

dhartmanva Author Profile Page :

Jeezus frickin' Christ, the moron Pearlstein is at it again.

US carbon emissions are already flat, and have been for a decade. Here's a picture for you, you have to copy and paste the link:


Meanwhile China has more than doubled their emissions, and now contributes more than does the US. Nice control there.

rexreddy Author Profile Page :

Well the sun reaches thermal maximum of it's cycle somewhere between 2011 and 2012 after that the cycle will reverse and you will have to convince all the liberal lemmings that carbon is now causing global cooling. (as was your first scare tactic in the early 80’s)

Inevitably a “real” ice age will one day come. There is nothing you can do about it.

I wish it were tomorrow. All you limp wristed liberals would run south.
I would stay and enjoy the silence while eating your precious Polar Bears. “With plenty of barbeque sauce!”

cliftono Author Profile Page :

Our problem is that Congress, all of it, worries more about being reelected instead of what needs to be done. Both sides of the aisle fail in this way. The President can't pass legislation he can sign what's written. We as a nation lose out but hey we get what we want. Republicans that look tough on the Pres but do nothing. Democrats that don't follow thru. We get what we've elected.

Meanwhile we don't have the economic power to be world leaders. Our denial of a problem or of a means to help leaves us out of intellectual leadership. By our inaction we're setting ourselves to be inconsequential on the world stage. Why listen to a country that does nothing itself and denies any science.

I hope the science is wrong. Extreme droughts, flooding, and climate change are visible in today's headlines. Don't retort that there have always been changes. Events are happening now that are larger than ever recorded. The ark is not a myth the Earth was covered in water. It's a complex biosphere and we (humans) have advanced to a point that we can affect how it adjusts. I question will we be able to survive the adjustments.

Lee19 Author Profile Page :

Part of the problem is the election cycle - when a politician is elected their first focus is not the well-being of the planet, but getting re-elected. No-one has the political balls to make a decision that might be right over a 100 year perspective but lose them the next election.

Airborne82 Author Profile Page :

Congress did their Job and the Senate failed because of the new West Virginia Coal supporting Senator. He Killed clean energy Jobs though he voted for Unemployment benefits.

The “current” GOP serves Billionaires, Oil, Coal, China and Iran more than the American people. By blocking deficit reduction in favor the Rich, by blocking USA clean energy Jobs and manufacturing they insure the continued Offshoring of American Jobs and Manufacturing to China and insure America has to pay twice as much and more to combat climate change damages caused by burning Coal; by blocking Oil replacement technologies and federal management positions critical to preventing terrorism they serve the best interests of Iran.

GOP senators even stooped so low as to block tax breaks for small businesses, thereby blocking their ability to hire and create jobs. While the GOP is serving Iran and China more than the American people:

China combines the Power of the State to help create Private Industry Jobs. The Chinese government is investing $738 Billion over the next 10 years in clean energy jobs and manufacturing; often using American technology that has been Offshored to China for manufacturing and jobs. Every dollar invested generally attracts two and more dollars in Private investment. Much of the technology is provided by America because there is little incentive to develop it in America. Blocking clean energy jobs and manufacturing legislation insures “America’s Best Intellectual Property” gets transferred to and developed in China.

2010Rout Author Profile Page :

Global warming is a scam. It has never been proven in a lab. When the wall fell all the communists became environmentalists... same agenda... controll everything we do and tax and tax and tax... Al Gore, before he became a sexual predator, or maybe while, got very rich from this scam... Only chicken little idiots believe in global warming... most of them probably also believe Obama is not a socialist... Rome is burning and the morons are in control!

Airborne82 Author Profile Page :

Now China is angling to provide the USA with freight rail locomotives, high speed rail, windmills and solar panels while blocking foreign supplies from Chinese government contracts:

Foreign companies in China sound off on business policies


“(China) policies known as "indigenous innovation," which essentially requires firms operating here (in China) to transfer their latest technology to China; it also favors homegrown Chinese companies for government business and contracts.

A foreign company here (in China) "has to register its technology in China, innovate in China and, in some cases, make it in China." Without… safeguards of intellectual property, some foreign business leaders are worried that Chinese companies will copy their technology and use it to compete against the foreign firms in the global marketplace.

Technology-based multinational firms -- particularly those involved in telecommunications, aerospace, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals and alternative energy -- are finding China increasingly assertive and more interested than ever in acquiring their know-how. "”

That is an Economic and National Security Disaster in the making. If the Oil and Coal industries have their way, America will be enslaved to Middle East Oil and Chinese Economic Dominance.

marnold1966 Author Profile Page :

The reason we are "behind," as you so ignorantly call it, is because THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS aren't stupid enough to believe your liberal asinity theory called Global Warming. Please go back to school and get a proper education instead of a liberal one.

WIN4440 Author Profile Page :


Jihm Author Profile Page :

For the same reason we are behind on nearly everything else:
The stone-age GOP is holding us back.

CaughtInAMosh Author Profile Page :

After reading this drivel for a couple seconds, I am inspired to go outside and rev my engine for a minute or two.

chatard Author Profile Page :

We are not falling behind on curbing carbon emissions. We have led the world in curbing carbon emissions for decades. The writers who posed this question for you all are liars, as are many people who write for the Washington Post. They lie, they distort, they spin, they propagandize. They are JournOlistas. Pearlstein is supposed to be a 'business' writer. He knows jack about carbon, or the climate. He even writes columns bashing Republican politicos like Sarah Palin. These people are ppseudo-intellectuals and pseudo-journalists.

Bugs222 Author Profile Page :

Who's to blame? We can start with the liars and disinformers of the fossil fuel industry and their phony think tanks and media whores like George Will and Fox Noise. They've spent the past two decades deliberately distorting information to confuse the general public and undermine support for effective action on climate change. Second: the unthinking, knee-jerk right-wingers, whose dogmatic stupidity and violent rhetoric has silenced scientists, obstructed progress, and sealed the doom of the human species. Finally, the rest of us who let the former get away with murder. Literally.

dbusch77 Author Profile Page :

You people have convinced yourselves that there is some kind of 'crisis' here that requires drastic action. Just because you choose to engage in groupthink at the Post doesn't mean the rest of us do. The reason for the inaction is because most of us aren't buying it, and the politician are afraid to stick their necks out in the middle of a recession to play whack-a-mole with our economy. Any that do will be punished at the polls.

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