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America's Future Panel on Climate Change

The Center for the Study of Politics and Governance has a great series of panels this week presented in conjunction with the Republican National Convention. http://www.hhh.umn.edu/centers/cspg/rnc.html
At the panel on climate change, one source of good news was that all the panel members, some of whom had served in past Republican administrations, acknowledged that human-caused climate change was a real and serious problem closely connected to the country's national security need to be more energy independent.
Former Governor George Pataki was confident that a McCain administration would enact a cap and trade system that would yield significant new revenue and power to the federal government unless we committed to give the money back to taxpayers. Since I'm not certain that even a Democratic administration will be able to move a serious climate change bill, it was interesting to hear Gov. Pataki recognize that a strong economic intervention by government would be necessary.
I was glad that everyone had a variety of ideas for innovation that would make a difference. Optimism reigned supreme. But the costs of the transition they foresaw tended to be underplayed as they played up the benefits. And certain things were missing. There was little talk of energy savings and conservation, though it was mentioned in passing. No one talked about the role of mass transit except when Gov. Pataki talked about his efforts to buy hybrid passes for transit in New York. The assumption seemed to be that Americans could keep all their current habits.
Finally, in their positive comments about the need to drill more in the U.S., no one faced up to the paradox that now that we are finally facing the effects of human activity on the planet caused by our intense use of energy, we still are willing to override other environmental concerns (wildlife and wilderness in ANWR for example) in order to feed our need for cheap U.S. oil. I would be interested in a conversation on whether we can or should have a consistent ethic on protecting the environment and from that ethic, just how we'll decide which environmental impacts we will accept and which we won't.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
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