Cartoon is by Joel Pett, from USA Today (http://mediagallery.usatoday.com/Editorial-Cartoons/G373,S81137)
I thought the cartoon was a good introduction to this, since it makes the same point - or one of them - that Al Gore does in his Febr. 27th editorial in the New York Times:
Registration (free) is required to read the article, but here are the first two paragraphs, which is all I wanted to comment about right now:
It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it.
Of course, we would still need to deal with the national security risks of our growing dependence on a global oil market dominated by dwindling reserves in the most unstable region of the world, and the economic risks of sending hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas in return for that oil. And we would still trail China in the race to develop smart grids, fast trains, solar power, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources of energy — the most important sources of new jobs in the 21st century.
OK, so go ahead and assume that the consensus of climatologists is wrong. That's possible, if not the smartest bet. What if, despite the overwhelming evidence otherwise, the Earth is not heating up due to the greenhouse gases we're dumping into the atmosphere? What then? What if we do something about this problem, and it turns out to be a false alarm?
Well, we're still being held hostage by Arab oil states, Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria, etc. - some of the most unstable and oppressive regimes in the world, who all have their own reasons to pressure America in various ways. They're all very happy to see us dangle on their string, but doesn't it make sense to try to free ourselves from that?
We're still sending hundreds of billions of dollars overseas every year to buy oil from these countries, money that weakens the dollar, that worsens our trade deficit, and that could be better used in so many other ways. And since we desperately need the oil, and have absolutely no control over the price we must pay, we're reduced to begging Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich nations to keep the cost down (which works about as well as you'd expect).
And meanwhile, China is investing vast sums of money into the technology of the future. They don't have much oil, either, but they're smart enough to work on resolving that, they're smart enough to try to take the lead in future technology, instead of clinging desperately to an idealized past.
Admittedly, they're a dictatorship, so they don't have this messy democracy stuff to deal with. But that's the whole point. We Americans need to be smart ourselves, because it's we who tell our leaders what to do, not the other way around. Or is democracy just a failed experiment, people being too dumb, too gullible, too short-sighted to make decisions for themselves? Are we just going to give up, letting China have the future, while we huddle in a pasture, waiting for the Rapture to lift us into a glorious, though imaginary, new world?
Even if you despise the Democrats and think the worst of Al Gore, even if you think that global warming is a giant, worldwide conspiracy intent on victimizing poor, helpless multinational oil companies, even if you like a long-shot bet, and think that all ignorant people must "stand up to the experts," so what? What's the worse that could happen? That we'd wean ourselves off foreign oil, start to spend our money on American-made products, and continue to lead the world in science and technology? Yeah, that would really be terrible, wouldn't it?