Those who see climate change as the proximate threat take another view, one that has evolved into a kind of secular religion. Debate on the science of climate change must be shut down -- you must have faith.
We Americans have sinned, and we will be punished unless we repent and change our ways. We have been selfish, and we have failed to heed the advice of the more enlightened and sophisticated nations of the world. We must do penance by sacrificing some of our comforts (though not the gigantic houses and private jet travel of Al Gore or John Edwards). We must reduce carbon emissions by some tremendous percentage.
Left mostly unspoken is which of the two mechanisms to reduce emissions will be used: a carbon tax, which will impose significant costs on everyone and big costs on some (coal miners, steel manufacturers), or a cap-and-trade system, which can be gamed by sharp operators (it was central to the business model of Enron).
He who defines the issues tends to determine the outcome of the election. When pollster Peter Hart asked a bipartisan focus group which candidate could best protect the nation, several people mentioned Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, one mentioned Barack Obama, and no one mentioned Hillary Clinton. Evidently these people, unlike international elites, see the threat as Islamist terrorism and not climate change.
We know which seems more threatening to Republican and Democratic primary voters. But what about independents, who favored Republicans in 2002 and 2004 and Democrats in 2006? The answer may tell you which side wins in 2008.