The United States is the “one significant outlier” on responding to climate change, according to a recent global research report produced by HSBC, the London-based bank. John Ashton, Britain’s special representative for climate change, said in an interview that “in the U.K., in Europe, in most places I travel to” — but not in the United States — “the starting point for conversation is that this is real, there are clear and present dangers, so let’s get a move on and respond.” After watching the Republican candidates express skepticism about global warming in early September, former President Bill Clinton put it more bluntly, “I mean, it makes us — we look like a joke, right?”
Americans — who produce twice the emissions per capita that Europeans do — are in many ways wired to be holdouts. We prefer bigger cars and bigger homes. We value personal freedom, are suspicious of scientists, and tend to distrust the kind of sweeping government intervention required to confront rising greenhouse gas emissions.
“Climate change presents numerous ideological challenges to our culture and our beliefs,” Professor Hoffman of the Erb Institute says. “People say, ‘Wait a second, this is really going to affect how we live!’”…
In private, scientific advisers to Mr. Obama say he and his administration remain committed to confronting climate change and global warming. But Robert E. O’Connor, program director for decision, risk and management sciences at the National Science Foundation in Washington, said a bolder leader would emphasize real risks that, apparently, now feel distant to many Americans. “If it’s such an important issue, why isn’t he talking about it?”