The time to act on global warming is clearly now—right now. In a sane world, Congress would immediately take up carbon cap legislation, and President Obama would be giving a big speech on the issue—and pressing Mitt Romney to explain why he flip-flopped into climate skeptic land, moving in precisely the wrong direction on one of the most important issues to afflict humanity.
Moreover, President Obama would recognize this as a smart political move, because the hard-core deniers notwithstanding, public opinion on global warming follows the weather. It always does. Now, with the whole country wondering about the sweltering heat, about the wildfires and the derecho and the destruction, people are more than ready to hear that, yes, this is global warming, and yes, something has to be done about it.
And yet still, it is not happening.
I cannot overemphasize how dramatic a missed opportunity this is—because we know that even against the backdrop of an overall warming trend, the weather is extremely fickle, and so is public opinion. In late 2009, the year of ClimateGate, and then in early 2010 (of “Snowmageddon” fame), public doubts about climate change increased in association with winter weather—and that could happen once again as soon as the end of this year.