U.S. Climate Exceptionalism and the Fool

Last summer I bemoaned the failure of the United States to develop a comprehensive climate change policy, noting that our failure is remarkable in comparison to Europe. Here is more sad evidence:

In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on September 27, British Foreign Secretary William Hague argued, “Climate change is perhaps the twenty-first century’s biggest foreign policy challenge along with such challenges as preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. A world which is failing to respond to climate change is one in which the values embodied in the UN will not be met. It is a world in which competition and conflict will win over collaboration.”

Hague’s comments on the relationship between global security and climate change merit repeating:

You cannot have food, water, or energy security without climate security. They are interconnected and inseparable. They form four resource pillars on which global security, prosperity and equity stand. Each depends on the others. Plentiful, affordable food requires reliable and affordable access to water and energy. Increasing dependence on coal, oil, and gas threatens climate security, increasing the severity of floods and droughts, damaging food production, exacerbating the loss of biodiversity and, in countries that rely on hydropower, undermining energy security through the impact on water availability. As the world becomes more networked, the impacts of climate change in one country or region will affect the prosperity and security of others around the world.

That Hague is a Tory confirms something Glenn Beck once said: “[Y]ou don’t have to be a socialist, I guess, to believe in global warming.” Do not suppose that Beck is a fool all of the time.

A recent report of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found that only 8 percent of Americans have knowledge of basic climate change science that would merit a grade of A or B, 40 percent would receive a C or D, and 52 percent would get an F. Such ignorance is fertile ground for the poisonous seeds of demagogy. Beck and his ilk are encouraging a populist movement that, according to a recent New York Times article, takes climate change skepticism as an article of faith. If Tea Party candidates are successful in November, the fool will be laughing, for the time being at least.