As the wealthiest nation, the U.S. is expected to come up with the biggest contribution to others. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was among several luminaries representing the U.S. during the conference, tried not to disappoint, pledging American help to secure $100 billion in annual financing to poorer countries by 2020. How exactly the U.S. will pay for its share of that pot of gold is unclear.
But even if we give away billions to poor countries, there will still be a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots. And if the have-nots can't close the gap by becoming wealthier, maybe the haves will simply agree to become poorer.
The United States could certainly dramatically cut back on greenhouse gases if we gave up cars, televisions, central heating and air conditioning, computers, and household appliances. We could quit eating meat, grow our own veggies, and make our own clothes. But no elected official in his or her right mind is going to suggest those measures, so instead they suggest what they think are more palatable policies by focusing on businesses and imposing new taxes on carbon emissions. But the effect will ultimately be the same: We'll cut our CO2 emissions by reducing our standard of living.
Are we really ready to do that? And should we be, based on what we know at this moment? I'm old enough to remember when radical environmentalists were warning us of a nuclear winter and a coming Ice Age. And they had plenty of prominent scientists with data to prove it. The common thread in all these predictions of catastrophe was the belief that Man was so powerful -- and destructive -- we could change climate for the worse all on our own.
Maybe it's time for a little less hubris -- especially on the part of the scientific community. We don't have all the answers, and we will never find them if we think we already do.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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