Walter Russell Mead has a smart take on the decline in the fortunes of the Green Movement. His summary of the current state of its affairs is a classic:
A year ago giddy environmentalists were on top of the world. The greenest president in American history had the largest congressional majority of any president since Lyndon Johnson; the most powerful leaders in the world were elbowing each other for places on the agenda at the Copenhagen conference on climate.
It all came to naught. The continued stalemates and failures of the UN treaty process have fallen off the front pages; as the Kyoto Protocol sinks ineffectually into oblivion, no new global treaty will take its place. The most Democratic Congress in a generation will not pass significant climate legislation before the midterms pull Congress to the right, and there will be no US law on carbon caps or anything close in President Obama’s first term, and there is less public faith in or concern about climate change today than at any time in the last fifteen years.
Has any public pressure group ever spent so much direct mail and foundation money for such pathetic results?
He contends that the failure of the enivornmentalists’ efforts results from their effectively becoming members of the establishment at a time in which the public has developed a serious case of doubt with regard to the pronouncements of the establishment. He adds that this skepticism arises for fairly good reasons, a position with which I would completely concur.
I wouldn’t quibble a bit with Mead’s analysis as to why the movement has more or less imploded except to add that I never felt it was nearly so omnipotent as it considered itself. Largely, the inevitability of the climate change proponents forcing through their agenda was a creation of the media. Certain members of the political class bought into it as it meshed nicely with their philosophy of government activism and sectors of the business community spied the opportunity for substantial rent seeking.
That created a lot of its momentum. They failed, however, to make a case to the public that it also involved their vital interests. In fact, it always smelled as if there was a game about that they would ultimately have to pay for. Failure, then, shouldn’t be that big a surprise.