What Economic and Political Conditions Are Needed To Spur Major Federal Climate Action?

bidge-to-climate-stable-future© John Laumer

When will we set foot on the bridge to a climate-stable future?

When the economy is down, US voters always give environment a low rank in importance. When the economy subsequently rebounds, environment might be ranked 3rd or 4th place, as a direct result of which, good science and bipartisan effort can be the bridge to Congressional action. Roper polls have noted this pairing of economy and environmental interest time and time again. The public has to feel it is a priority or nothing happens.

Remember, as we contemplate the 2012 presidential election and the increased risk of climate catastrophe, government officials dare not ask for added sacrifice when citizens feel they're already losing ground.

Classic example:
Jimmy Carter, who apparently didn't see the memo about this, lost the 1980 presidential election after asking us to wear a sweater and turn down the thermostat. President Reagan then turned it up a couple notches past room temp appointing goats to guard the cabbage patch, which led to Republican stalwarts returning to government to help pull management systems and professional morale together.

No different for climate.
Elected officials can not support significant Federal climate action until the economy becomes stable and jobs consistently added, leading to steadily increased consumer confidence. Only a shared perception of environmental catastrophe caused by climate change might change that reality.

Note: We may well already have entered catastrophe mode, as noted in my earlier post: Black Swan Landing In The American Consciousness, but the perception that this is so is not widely shared -- or, at least, poll designers have not yet properly asked the question.

Remember these events from 2011?

  • Hundreds of highly damaging tornadoes in the space of a week.
  • Late summer hurricane in Vermont.
  • Half-foot of snow on the green leaves of early October, tearing branches from ancient trees.
  • Epic drought killing millions of trees in Texas.

What Economic and Political Conditions Are Needed To Spur Major Federal Climate Action?
With the economy still down, and unemployment prospects poor, it may take a catastrophe to turn consumers into climate activists.