By golly it sure has been cold. Europe and parts of the United States are freezing their collective asses off. Of course it only took a New York minute before global warming deniers were using the cold snap to argue their case. And why not? All fair in love and war and politics. Advocates of global warming don’t hesitate to tout their case when it’s hot, so turnabout is fair play. All of which leaves the general public in a continuing state of general confusion.

This is why there is not a snowball’s chance in Hell that the Congress will pass any form of substantive climate change legislation this year. For those who like lists, here are three good reasons why we won’t see major progress this year.

The Case Hasn’t Been Made. The climate change case has not been made with sufficient force to galvanize enough public opinion to push legislators to vote that way, especially in an election year when politicians go into turtle mode. Events, be they the mess in Copenhagen or the exceptionally powerful cold snap we are going through, have not been on the side of climate change proponents.

We Can’t Throw Money at the Problem. Staving off climate change requires reducing carbon dioxide emissions. This in turn means restructuring much of our industrial base away from coal to cleaner forms of energy. That takes a lot of expensive carrots and sticks to push and pull change. Where will the money for all this come from, especially here in the United States where there is already considerable worrying about the size of the Federal deficit?

There Are Other Equally Pressing Problems. Climate change is a slowly unfolding problem the full force of which won’t be felt for a decade or two. There’s an impressive array of problems that are happening right here and now, chief among them being high unemployment and a still very weak economy. So you tell me. Which set of problems will demand the most attention from the political system?

You know the answer to that question as well as I do. Our political system is geared to deal with short-term problems that help convince today’s voters to re-elect the current crop of politicians as opposed to solving problems that will benefit the next generation.

Bottom Line. The cold hard reality about global warming is that we will forgo the less expensive ounce of prevention and end up paying for the pound of cure, assuming there is a cure to be had by then. If the science is correct, then absent any immediate and massive mitigation climate change will continue at an ever-quickening rate with consequences we can only dimly perceive.

Good night and good luck. We will need it.

This essay first appeared in