The Climate Change Safari Park

Many people – including America’s new president – believe that global warming is the preeminent issue of our time, and that cutting carbon emissions is one of the most virtuous things we can do. In fact, cutting emissions is more like maintaining safari parks: an indulgence that makes rich people feel good about themselves, but that poor people can't afford.

COPENHAGEN – As Barack Obama prepares for his inauguration, it is worth contemplating a passage from his book Dreams from My Father . It reveals a lot about the way we view the world’s problems.

Obama is in Kenya and wants to go on a safari. His Kenyan sister Auma chides him for behaving like a neo-colonialist. “Why should all that land be set aside for tourists when it could be used for farming? These wazungu care more about one dead elephant than they do for a hundred black children.” Although he ends up going on safari, Obama has no answer to her question.

That anecdote has parallels with the current preoccupation with global warming. Many people – including America’s new president – believe that global warming is the preeminent issue of our time, and that cutting CO2 emissions is one of the most virtuous things we can do.

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