The Long Death of Environmentalism


Yet today, environmental efforts to address climate change and build a green economy lie in ruins. The United States Congress this summer once again rejected climate legislation that even had it succeeded would have had virtually no impact upon U.S. carbon emissions over the coming decade. The magnitude and consequence of this defeat are poorly understood outside of Washington. Greens had the best opportunity in a generation — a Democratic White House and large Democratic majorities in Congress. But they banked everything on a single bill and walked away with nothing — or rather worse than nothing, since today environmental credibility with lawmakers of both parties is today at an all-time low.

Meanwhile, green stimulus investments ended up creating very few jobs. Those that it did create were low-wage and temporary custodial jobs — not the high-wage manufacturing jobs that created the black middle-class after World War II. And today, the clean tech sector– the darling of high tech VC’s at the height of the green bubble– is in a state of collapse as stimulus funds expire, large public deficits threaten clean energy subsidies both here and abroad, and Wall Street firms short clean tech stocks.

The picture is no less grim internationally. Australia has abandoned efforts to cap its emissions. Japan announced last month that it would, under no circumstances, agree to further emissions reduction commitments under the auspices of the Kyoto Accord. The European Union will meet its Kyoto commitments thanks to the collapse of Eastern Bloc economies in the early 90’s and the collapse of the global economy in 2008, not through pubic policy efforts to decarbonize its economy. And the collapse of diplomatic efforts to negotiate legally binding emissions caps, first in Copenhagen and again in Cancun, has set the international process back to where it started in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro.

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