What events or actions had the most positive or negative impact on the likelihood that the nation and the world will act in time to avoid catastrophic warming? Here are my picks:
#10. Over a barrel: Oil nearing $100. Technically not a global warming story — but who can doubt that part of the renewed interest in energy policy in general and alternatives/efficiency in particular is due to record oil prices? Certainly OPEC is a bit worried. And if, as many believe, this is evidence that we are nearing peak oil — then this story foreshadows even more dramatic changes in the future.
#9. Australian denier bites the dust — literally: Conservative Prime Minister John Howard of drought-riddled Australia lost perhaps the first national election in which global warming was a pivotal issue. The immediate impact was Australia signing the Kyoto protocol — further isolating this country. But a much bigger impact may be felt if U.S. progressives come to see that fighting global warming is not just the morally right thing to do — it is winning politics.
#8. The climate, it is a changin’: The painful reality of global warming is becoming obvious to more and more people in 2007, as the weather gets more and more extreme. Australians reversed their thinking in large part because of the brutal multi-year drought they are now in (see here and here and here). Then we have the brutal droughts in this country (see here), which are increasingly being linked to global warming. Same for the record-breaking wildfires. The Brits know climate change is behind their record flooding. Same for the Chinese.
#7. Delayers/Deniers Double Down. In spite of the painful obviousness of climate change, the incontrovertible science linking it to human activity, and the graver and graver warnings of potential catastrophe — many Deniers, like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), just continue putting out the same old disinformation in new packages or obsessing over meaningless NASA data revisions. A lot of people seem simply impervious to the facts and to science — and desperate to cling to any media stories or studies, however inaccurate, that seem to undermine the overwhelming body of evidence. And then we have the emergence of the Delayers, who say they believe in global warming but show that they really don’t get it by embracing only voluntary technological strategies, which can’t get us to 550 ppm, let alone the 450 or less we need to avert catastrophe. Remember, only 41 Senators representing a small fraction of the American people, can stop serious domestic action — if they so choose. Heck, they stopped a measly 15% renewable electricity requirement and a shift of money from unneeded oil subsidies to vital clean energy technologies — imagine what they’ll do with a serious climate bill. And 34 Senators can stop this country from ratifying any international treaty. The mindless — and self-destructive — implacability of conservatives could easily be the top story of the year and — spoiler alert – in some sense it is.
#6. Fewer fools on the Hill. While the deniers/delayers remain locked in the past, those who believe in action took control of both houses of Congress this year, a key reason we got tougher fuel economy standards passed and a real climate bill out of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. The only way we’ll get serious enough climate action domestically to give us the credibility needed to bring China and other countries along is if we have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Let’s hope 2008 Congressional elections continue the trend.