Dysfunctional US Politics and International Climate Policy

Sometimes the messenger is the message. The Washington Post these days had a must-read article co-authored by Thomas E. Mann from the centrist Brookings Institution and Norman J. Ornstein from the conservative American Enterprise Institute with the title: “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem”.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. (…)

On financial stabilization and economic recovery, on deficits and debt, on climate change and health-care reform, Republicans have been the force behind the widening ideological gaps and the strategic use of partisanship. In the presidential campaign and in Congress, GOP leaders have embraced fanciful policies on taxes and spending, kowtowing to their party’s most strident voices.

Republicans often dismiss nonpartisan analyses of the nature of problems and the impact of policies when those assessments don’t fit their ideology.

This isn’t the only such assessment, another example is this anguished goodbye of long-time Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren: “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult”.

Obviously, this has profound implications for climate policy. Most of the other large emitters directly tie their level of engagement to what the USA is doing – or rather not doing. “If they are not reducing their emissions, why should we?”

Mann and Ornstein don’t have much hope for the near future. “If anything, Washington’s ideological divide will probably grow after the 2012 elections.” So how much longer does the rest of the world want to wait for the USA to get serious about climate change? Looking at the domestic situation in the USA, it could be quite a long wait.

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