The changing politics of climate change, and how they could hurt green cars

Newsweek writer Stefan Theil makes a convincing argument that the political world has become blasé about the issue of climate change, and that has far-reaching effects. In 2007, you couldn't throw a rock without hitting a politician who made reducing CO2 levels or another green issue a top priority. Today, like with most things in politics and the media, attention has shifted to other things, like health care and the economy. Some numbers Theil found to back this statement up:
Just 42 percent of Germans now worry about climate change, down from 62 percent in 2006. In Australia, only 53 percent still consider it a pressing issue, down from 75 percent in 2007. Americans rank climate change dead last of 21 problems that concern them most, according to a January Pew poll.
So, if political opinion about climate change can, well, change so drastically in such a short time, where does that leave automakers. As we've seen time and time again, it takes a long time to bring a new green car to market, and fluctuations like this must be absolutely maddening to the engineers and product design teams.

All this leads us to a host of questions. The true greenies aren't affected by public opinion, but what about the broader segment of car buyers? Are people ready to not look at the headlines of the day (and current gas prices) when they purchase a new vehicle? If there's no continued political support for lowering CO2 emissions from cars, will automakers still put a lot of resources into building them? It seems like, again, the only answer might be higher gas prices. Are we ready? Theil writes:
A new climate realism would more carefully weigh the costs and benefits of emissions controls, and look at other options beyond the current set of targets. The new debate will be more pragmatic and include a broader mix of policies. That might include a shift of subsidies into research and development, as many climate economists have argued. It would also include greater efforts to adapt society to a warmer climate, rather than focusing only on stopping the warming process in its tracks.
[Source: Newsweek | Image: nattu - C.C. License 2.0]

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