Schadenfreude: Obama Sells Out the Environmentalists

Oscar Wilde wrote that “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell [in Uncle Tom’s Cabin The Old Curiosity Shop] without laughing.” That’s how I feel about this cri de coeur by environmentalist Bill McKibben in yesterday’s New York Times: “Obama’s Catastrophic Climate-Change Denial.” Et tu, Barack?

The Obama administration’s decision to give Shell Oil the go-ahead to drill in the Arctic shows why we may never win the fight against climate change. Even in this most extreme circumstance, no one seems able to stand up to the power of the fossil fuel industry. No one ever says no. …

Talk about salting wounds and adding insult to injury: It’s as if the tobacco companies were applying for permission to put cigarette machines in cancer wards.

And the White House gave Shell the license. In his first term, President Obama mostly ignored climate change, and he ran for re-election barely mentioning the subject until Hurricane Sandy made it unavoidable in the closing days of the campaign.

Obviously, “climate change” had nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy. Hurricane activity is at a historic low.

[Y]ou can’t deal with climate on the demand side alone. If we keep digging up more coal, gas and oil, it will get burned, if not here, then somewhere else. This is precisely the conclusion that a study in the journal Nature reached in January: If we’re to have any chance of meeting even Mr. Obama’s weak goal of holding temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, we have to leave most carbon underground. …

And yet Mr. Obama — acting on his own, since these are all executive actions requiring nothing from Congress — has opened huge swaths of the Powder River basin to new coal mining. He’s still studying whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, though the country’s leading climate scientists have all told him it would be a disaster. And now he’s given Shell the green light, meaning that, as with Keystone, it will be up to the environmental movement to block the plan (“kayaktivists” plan to gather this weekend in Seattle’s harbor, trying to prevent Shell from basing its Arctic rigs there).

It’s almost as if Obama didn’t mean what he said, but was just playing the environmentalists for fools.

Arctic Offshore Drilling

This is not climate denial of the Republican sort, where people simply pretend the science isn’t real. This is climate denial of the status quo sort, where people accept the science, and indeed make long speeches about the immorality of passing on a ruined world to our children. They just deny the meaning of the science, which is that we must keep carbon in the ground.

I hate to be the one to break it to Mr. McKibben and others of his ilk, but no one is willing to sign up for poverty in order to combat global warming. The Chinese won’t do it, the Indians won’t do it, the Europeans won’t do it, and we won’t do it. Relatively cheap energy is the key to prosperity and human well-being. The global warming theories in which Mr. McKibben believes so fervently have been shot full of holes in theory, and proven wrong in practice. No one–not even Barack Obama–is going to drive America’s economy into the ditch to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an amount that would have essentially zero impact on the climate, if the alarmists’ models were correct.

The real role that global warming plays on the Left is strictly rhetorical: it can be useful to beat up on Republicans. But the Democrats have no intention of doing anything material about the crisis they pretend to believe in.

UPDATE: Thanks to Rufus Frazier for the Old Curiosity Shop correction. It is Little Eva who dies in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Little Eva is widely assumed to be modeled on Little Nell.