Prospects for a big advance on climate change are growing cloudy. After little progress at the UN this week, and with legislation stalled in Congress, a number of columnists are complaining that the issue has slid somewhere behind global economics and health care reform on the national agenda. A number of columnists are complaining that it should be higher and offering thoughts about why it isn't.

  • The Climate Bill Will Not Kill the Economy, Paul Krugman argues at The New York Times. "The claim that climate legislation will kill the economy deserves the same disdain as the claim that global warming is a hoax. The truth about the economics of climate change is that it's relatively easy being green." Krugman says Americans use energy inefficiently and that conservation could save us money.
The evidence suggests that we're wasting a lot of energy right now. That is, we're burning large amounts of coal, oil and gas in ways that don't actually enhance our standard of living -- a phenomenon known in the research literature as the 'energy-efficiency gap.' The existence of this gap suggests that policies promoting energy conservation could, up to a point, actually make consumers richer.
  • Did Obama Even Try at the UN? Bill McKibben at Mother Jones worries he didn't. Obama's "most immediate priority," McKibben writes, "is producing more economic growth." That's well and good, but McKibben says the world is facing a looming climate disaster.
Never mind that no one is talking about perfect--we're well past that. I mean, the Arctic is already falling into the sea. But the idea that we should settle for making some "progress" is either a declaration of defeat or a profound misreading of the latest science. Obama gave a speech that would have been great had it come two years ago--but now, with scientists ever more frightened, it left the thousands gathered here for the climate conference feeling deflated.
  • The White House had to Make a Choice, Marc Ambinder explained at The Atlantic. Faced with numerous crises and a limit to how may they could feature, the administration skipped climate change. "They could have chosen climate change, or poverty, or development," Ambinder writes, "but administration planners believed that of all those existential threats, the most good could come from a meeting and resolution dedicated to ridding the world of nuclear weapons."