This is how effective energy policy will happen

James Conca recently wrote Does Our Military Know Something We Don’t About Global Warming?. Therein Jim referenced a Eugene Skolnikoff Foreign Policy essay I’ve not seen before “The Policy Gridlock on Global Warming“. This is an excellent survey of why it has so far proven impossible to assemble political support for non-trivial energy policy changes. It was written in 1990 (!) but remains true today. And my personal priors were nicely confirmed in Jim’s excerpt:

“The central problem is that outside the security sector, policy processes confronting issues with substantial uncertainty do not normally yield policy that has high economic or political costs. This is especially true when the uncertainty extends not only to the issues themselves, but also to the measures to avert them or deal with their consequences.”

“The climate change issue illustrates – in fact exaggerates – all the elements of this central problem. Indeed, no major action is likely to be taken until those uncertainties are substantially reduced, and probably not before evidence of warming and its effects are actually visible. Unfortunately, any increase in temperature will be irreversible by the time the danger becomes obvious enough to permit political action.”

I wonder if a country run more by engineers than lawyers will be able to act sooner than the Western democracies? It’s encouraging that China is making a big investment in advanced nuclear while building Gen III plants about as fast as they can.

Source James Conca, Does Our Military Know Something We Don’t About Global Warming? Many reasons to read the Conca essay. E.g. did you know this bit of history about Reagan, Bush and Thatcher?

At a time when Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bush 41, and even British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, called for binding international protocols to control greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. Military was seriously studying global warming in order to determine what actions they could take to prepare for the change in threats that our military will face in the future.