Global Warming and American Leadership

Sharks Discuss Global WarmingThis afternoon, Steve Benen was writing about Obama’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. They sort of agreed that maybe they kind of ought to think about someday considering the possibility that there could at some point in the distant future might be an agreement that could conceivable lead to an arrangement that something really should be done about climate change in the not too distinct future, but perhaps the very distant future if that doesn’t seem politically viable. (Samuel Beckett would be proud!) Anyway, it’s good that they are talking about these things. You can be certain if it were a Republican in the White House, they wouldn’t be discussing it.

Benen brings up a common conservative argument against an agreement, “But without China, it will be useless!” Before I get to Benen’s comments on this, let me take a moment to talk from the perspective of a man who was in the trenches in the earlier days of the climate change wars. Many people at that time were really worried about Chinese air conditioners. It sounded then like it sounds now: American imperialism. We as in us, the fucking United States of America, are the worst polluter. Let’s take care of our own addiction to fossil fuels and then we can think about the rest of the world. As it is, if we acted alone, it would make a big difference.

So I have little tolerance for this selfish madness. Steve Benen is like minded. But he has a slightly different take on it. He writes:

I’ve never cared for the argument, not just because it’s a defeatist attitude that dooms the future of humanity, but also because it ignores the potential for American leadership. Our willingness to lead shouldn’t be dependent on some other country’s willingness to do the same—we’re the global superpower, and we do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because China agreed to a deal.

I completely agree with him. What’s more, this is one of my big complaints about the United States. You see, I used to be a true believer. When I was in school, I believed all that shit about our ideals. I thought that we really did always try to do what was right. Those people who hated us just didn’t understand us. We stood for things! And I still hope. But I think that Benen and I are both being way too idealistic. No one in power in the United States is going to do anything because it is right.

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