Global warming probably won’t do the job.
Roger Pielke, Jr. makes a good point over on Prometheus today about the way the debate over energy policy is being framed. He says:
The energy policy debate over climate change has largely been framed as an issue of managing the global climate for long-term benefits with the extra benefits of reducing dependence on foreign oil, increased efficiency and decreased particulate pollution.
He suggests that advocates of a sane energy policy would be well advised to reverse this order, to sell their ideas "in terms of a primary need to reduce dependence on foreign oil, increased efficiency and decreased particulate pollution," with "the resulting side benefit of reducing the impacts of humans on the climate system."
I too have my doubts that global warming will ever serve as an effective driver for public action. Even if the faux debate went away and everybody acknowledged the reality, it’s just too abstract and far away, the benefits too intangible. Yes, the ice caps are melting (etc.), but we’re talking about making a major shift in the way we live in order to … what? … slow but not stop the rise in greenhouse gases so as to avoid the worst impacts of climate change in 100 years? It’s just not something that’s going to get people in the streets. In a perfect world, maybe, but ours is not that.
What will get people fired up? Security and money. Money and security.