How do you persuade Europeans that America is concerned about climate change and is reducing its carbon emissions? Well, one way would be to put a fundamentalist environmental regulator from the state of California together with a pragmatic European bureaucrat from Brussels in a debate. After listening to both, the green girls and boys in the audience will be convinced that while Europe is talking and persuading, the US is acting, regulating, enforcing and punishing. Perhaps this was the reasoning at the US mission to the EU when they sponsored a debate on climate change last Wednesday in Brussels, organized by CafeBabel.com.
The star of this debate was Catherine Witherspoon, who was the executive officer of the California Air Resources Board until she resigned after a row with the staff of governor Schwarzenegger about climate change policy. The European Commission was represented by Jos Delbeke, director for Climate Change and Air at the Directorate General for Environment.
We need some more accidents and catastrophes to hit Americans upside the head, so that they also feel threatened. (...) The problem is the media: they believe in point and counterpoint. So while there are a million people who will tell you it is climate-related, they will find the one guy, the kooky guy with the white hair, who says that it is not, that it is a farce, that the climate changed since the dinosaurs and this is just another example. So Americans are misled. Americans are inherently sceptical of intellectuals, of scientists, of elitists, of governments. If there is someone to cast doubt, they will believe the person casting doubt. That's just the way Americans are, that's their personality. (...)
There are a lot of things that we understand to be true about climate change that we don't talk about. Because it's too early in the process and it would alienate the people. We need to support the big building blocks: the building of windmills, the changing of fuel quality and cars... If you want the US citizens to take climate change seriously and you say in the same breath: and would you please stop eating meat (...) you would turn people off. (...) It sounds too much like a nanny state, a police state coming from us. But NGOs, novelists, editorial writers can talk about it and change people without stopping momentum toward big governmental actions. ...)
I think we could regulate people more, I honestly do. (...) Americans understand SUVs are a bad thing, but they are right there, so they will buy them. If they went away, they would not buy them. (...) If bottled water disappeared, you would fill up a tap, you would find something else to drink. (...) There is a lot of things you can do with regulation by just taking things away: they're gone, and everybody gets on with their lives.
Yes, global warming is a regulator's dream.