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`Gotcha Time' over Climate Change

Catching up on my reading after being offline-don't tell the boss! - and out of pocket, a couple of items caught my eye. In Israel, they're experiencing the country's longest winter heat wave in 38 years years. It could be El Nino. It could be something else. But that's a topic of investigation for their country's climatologists. How nice to know that in some places ideology doesn't get in the way of the pursuit of scientific truth.

On this side of the globe, by contrast, we're still loading up on verbal spitballs. In lieu of serious conversations about serious questions about energy policy and climate - even the skeptics understand the two are related - it's `gotcha' time. First you had Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina tweeting during the recent record-breaking snowstorm which blanketed Washington that "it is going to keep snowing until Al Gore cries "uncle.'" That was followed by a media stunt starring family members of Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who mocked the former vice president by building an igloo next to the Capitol with a sign that read, "Al Gore's New Home."

What wits.

If some politicians are so keen to take victory laps because the east coast got nailed by an especially cold winter, God bless. It's too easy to caricature DeMint and Inhofe as intellectual troglodytes, but their trivialization of what should be a serious policy debate does carry real-world implications for U.S. competitiveness.

In his recent piece, the New York Times' Tom Friedman noted the (dismal) contrast with China, where that government is making big investments in "clean-tech, efficiency and high-speed rail." With the world population heading for 9 billion-plus souls by mid-century, you'd think the arguments for our getting behind major renewable energy and clean water would be no-brainers.

Not in contemporary Washington, where dysfunction has become a way of life in a real winter of discontent.

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