Explaining such lethargy in the face of a supposed emergency, the G-8's host, Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said the eight should not burden themselves as long as "5 billion people continue to behave as they have always behaved." Actually, the problem, for people who think it is a problem, is that the 5 billion in the developing world are behaving in a new way. After centuries of exclusion from economic growth, they are enjoying it, which is tiresome to would-be climate fixers in already prosperous nations.
The fixers say: On to Copenhagen! There, in December, the moveable feast of climate confabulations will continue. By which time China alone, at its current pace, probably will have brought on line 14 more coal-fired generating plants, each of them capable of providing all the electricity needed for a city the size of San Diego. And last Sunday, India told visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that there is "no case" for U.S. pressure on India to reduce carbon emissions.
The costs of weaning the U.S. economy off much of its reliance on carbon are uncertain, but certainly large. The climatic benefits of doing so are uncertain but, given the behavior of those pesky 5 billion, almost certainly small, perhaps minuscule, even immeasurable. Fortunately, skepticism about the evidence that supposedly supports current alarmism about climate change is growing, as is evidence that, whatever the truth about the problem turns out to be, U.S. actions cannot be significantly ameliorative.
When New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called upon "young Americans" to "get a million people on the Washington Mall calling for a price on carbon," another columnist, Mark Steyn, responded: "If you're 29, there has been no global warming for your entire adult life. If you're graduating high school, there has been no global warming since you entered first grade."
Which could explain why the Mall does not reverberate with youthful clamors about carbon. And why, regarding climate change, the U.S. government, rushing to impose unilateral cap-and-trade burdens on the sagging U.S. economy, looks increasingly like someone who bought a closetful of platform shoes and bell-bottom slacks just as disco was dying.