The global warming debate is at a crossroads, with a skeptical American public already rising up against a cap-and-trade scheme that would send energy prices through the roof, a whistle-blower at the influential Climate Research Unit revealing that the temperature data used to make the case for global warming were badly manipulated, predictions of yet another cold winter, and the fact it has been nearly a decade since global temperatures stopped rising.
India and China have suggested they might agree to increase their emissions at a slightly slower rate, which would still put the U.S. at a huge competitive disadvantage. Developing countries in the Third World are willing to get on board, but only if they get staggering wealth transfers from U.S. taxpayers.
In the face of all this, President Barack Obama is expected to stop by the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen - on the way home from picking up his Nobel Peace Prize in Norway - to commit the United States to a path of emissions reductions that will, in his own words, cause energy prices to "necessarily skyrocket," as if nothing had changed at all and global warming remained the world's most pressing problem.
The world is starting to come to grips with the limits of the American president's rhetoric, but Mr. Obama has yet to face this reality. During his goodwill tour of Asia last month, Mr. Obama stood with Chinese President Hu Jintao and promised to "rally the world" toward a binding global agreement on global warming - a Kyoto II - in Copenhagen.
Mr. Obama followed up his Chinese appearance by announcing he would attend the conference in person. He plans to tell the world America is "politically committed" to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. Those happen to be the reduction levels in the cap-and-trade bill passed by the House, but surely the president knows from his brief stint in Congress that he can't commit the country to doing such a thing without a vote in the Senate.
The more the American people learn about cap-and-trade - and what it will mean for their jobs, communities and family budgets - the less they like it. Here in Maryland, according to a study by the National Association of Manufacturers, it would mean the price of gasoline would increase 26 percent, electricity by 52 percent and natural gas by 64 percent. We would stand to lose 41,000 Maryland jobs by 2030.
Mr. Obama, it seems, is more interested in pleasing adoring crowds in Europe than blocking a policy that would slam Marylanders with huge costs. But these huge price increases create problems abroad too. Australia's Senate rejected cap-and-trade last week. China and India can accept some efficiency measures but certainly cannot risk disrupting economic growth. It looks increasingly clear that the most likely result from Copenhagen will be a lot of sweeping rhetoric about progress, a commitment to meet again next year in Mexico City, and no agreement of any substance.
Unfortunately, that doesn't lessen the anger for the American people because members of the Obama administration are doing more than making promises abroad. They are taking active steps to circumvent the Senate and implement policies that outsource our economic future to the United Nations. Under the direction of White House climate czar Carol Browner, the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to unleash on onslaught of greenhouse gas regulations through a twisted interpretation of the 1970 Clean Air Act, leaning on the United Nations climate reports that depend, in part, on the now-discredited temperature data from the Climate Research Unit.
Americans for Prosperity is in Copenhagen to tell the real story of what is at stake: our country's economic future and whether this administration will get away with outsourcing it to bureaucrats at the United Nations and so-called scientists willing to obfuscate and manipulate. We can't afford to lose this fight.
Phil Kerpen is director of policy and Dave Schwartz is Maryland state director for Americans for Prosperity ( www.AmericansforProsperity.org).