There’s the old observation that people who say “I hate to tell you this but. . .” don’t really hate to tell you that at all. Ditto for “I hate to say I told you so.” So for more than two decades now climate realists have been been saying “I hate to tell you this, but when economic reality intrudes, your climate dreams will disappear like most such wisps before it.”
Likewise, as much as I’d like to say “I hate to say I told you so,” I’d be lying, because I don’t hate saying this at all. The other day in my post about coal I mentioned that coal was roaring ahead because of economic reality. Yesterday the New York Times ran with this headline:
The European Union, which for years has sought to lead the world in addressing climate change, is tempering its ambitions and considering turning mandatory targets for renewable energy into just goals.
The union’s policy-making body is also unlikely to restrict exploration for shale gas using the disputed technique known as hydraulic fracturing.
A deep and lasting economic slowdown, persistently high prices for renewable energy sources and years of inconclusive international negotiations are giving European officials second thoughts about how aggressively to remake the Continent’s energy-production industries.
There’s more of interest in the story, but it’s enough for me to say: I told you so.
It’s all following the script of Anthony Downs’s “issue-attention cycle,” according to which at some point policy makers reach what I call the Emily Litella moment: “Never mind.” From that old post:
As Downs explains, there comes “a gradually spreading realization that the cost of ‘solving’ the problem is very high indeed.”
“The previous stage,” Downs continued, “becomes almost imperceptibly transformed into the fourth stage: a gradual decline in the intensity of public interest in the problem. In the final [post-problem] stage,” Downs concluded, “an issue that has been replaced at the center of public concern moves into a prolonged limbo—a twilight realm of lesser attention or spasmodic recurrences of interest.”
Climate change is increasingly Downs for the count. (Or maybe we should say the climate campaign is suffering from Downs’ Syndrome?)