An advantage that could be put to good use in the coming months is to look at some of the major failed undertakings of the Obama administration. While I am quite sympathetic to the Democratic desire to address climate change, I don’t think the winds are in the party’s favor in the 112th Congress. And, as you know, the president is going to have a very hard time getting his proposals passed — especially any plans to put a cap on carbon dioxide emissions.
Nevertheless, as you already know, despite our apparent consensus on the global dangers posed by the rise of an energized China, we still refuse to take action to keep the world a stable place. We, in contrast, seem more than capable of playing defense.
Without investing massively, an ambitious set of proposals could have helped us get off to a start that would have helped us avoid such challenges down the road.
Take, for example, the attempts by China to create a new program to allow the world’s poorest countries to put food on their tables, provided they agree to genetically modified crops and introduce other improvements. The problems with this program, while not minor, are more fully described elsewhere. What we have to say here is that failure to implement ideas like this not only risks the disease of climate change with each passing year, but it also threatens to create vast, unnecessary social tensions as the world’s most powerful economic entity goes about pursuing its objectives without taking into account the many ways in which progress in the poor countries could be helped by a substantial commitment to changing ways of life.
We have been quite generous with opening new markets for products from the poor countries, and we have had tremendous success in improving the lives of the living. We could easily give more — at a cost that wouldn’t require a massive new government program — and then make a commitment to having the middle class have a healthier diet and greatly improved quality of life.
Moreover, in terms of climate change, we could begin to fight the climate disaster that is just beginning to reveal itself by ending the need for massive subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. In exchange for all the billions of dollars we are sending to fossil fuel companies each year, they should set the example of greater commitment to renewable energy sources and financing those efforts.
By proposing these steps in an official, clear manner, there is nothing that separates us from the Chinese. Just as China isn’t involved in multilateral poverty eradication programs like the United States is, it should commit as well to the toughest standards to promote a lower carbon emissions world that would help us and the rest of the world reduce the dangers posed by climate change.