Robert J. Samuelson writes in the Washington Post today on what he calls “Greenhouse Hypocracy.” All the talking and wringing of hands and pledging, he says, is “mainly exhibitionism.”

He looks to Europe for a case in point, citing International Energy Agency statistics showing that most European countries have increased carbon emissions since 1990. Samuelson notes two exceptions, Germany and Britain, but claims their cuts had “nothing to do with Kyoto;” Germany because of reunification (fair enough), and Britain because … they had already decided to make cuts. Hey, they still cut their emissions.

But even though this is all just empty talk, none of it matters anyway, says Samuelson, since emissions from developing countries will ensure that greenhouse gases will still rise, and not by any small amount. This leads to his later conclusion that “[w]ithout technology gains, adapting to global warming makes more sense than trying to prevent it.”Samuelson then goes on to make three policy suggestions. For a column that took a very pragmatic, very realpolitik, maybe even cynical approach, his first suggestion strays far from that: a “stiff” oil tax.

“Second, we should acknowledge that global warming is an iffy proposition. Yes, it’s happening; but, no, we don’t know the consequences — how much warming will occur, what the effects (good or bad) will be or where.” This one might have Samuelson catching some flak from environmentalists, but I think he’s right in his assessment of the uncertainties. It’s tough to tell from just one paragraph though.

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The third prong is R&D. In another potential point of friction with some environmentalists, Samuelson asserts “Any technology solution would probably involve some acceptable form of nuclear power or an economic way of removing CO2 from burned fossil fuels. ‘Renewable’ energy (wind, solar, biomass) won’t suffice.”

Letters to the editor, especially on that last one, welcome here. Comments, of course, are below.

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