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Why It's So Hard to Change Public Attitudes: The Example of Global Warming

HENDRIK VAN DEN BERG 
UNL PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS


It is looking like we will not get a new international agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions at the Copenhagen Conference this December. After several unproductive preparatory meetings among government officials, the news media now report that Copenhagen is unlikely to result in more than a bland statement saying world leaders will continue working toward a new agreement. This is a sharp decline in expectations from a year ago, when Copenhagen was seen as the venue where a new international accord would be adopted to replace the Kyoto Protocol set to expire in 2012.

After initial optimism about the Obama Administration’s willingness to take a lead in framing a new climate agreement, the U.S. is now being accused of playing a spoiler role. The U.S. has ended negotiations over specific emissions targets by insisting that countries be given the freedom to decide their own measures for reducing greenhouse gases. The Obama Administration has cynically appealed to the principle of “national sovereignty” to redirect global negotiations away from a new set of binding limits on carbon emissions. “I feel like the Americans have lost the plot a little bit,” the European Commission president was dryly quoted as saying in the September 22 Financial Times.

A country’s national sovereignty is, of course, under much greater threat from climate change than it is from a binding international agreement on preventing global warming. But nationalism serves as a convenient emotional ‘hot button’ that special interests can use to derail serious climate legislation. Opponents of carbon taxes and environmental regulations know very well that voluntary efforts designed by individual governments will not stop global warming. Permitting individual nations to set their own standards invariably results in an international ‘race to the bottom,’ in which competing countries consistently ‘water down’ the costly measures that actually promote alternative energy and conservation.

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Report from the President

PAUL OLSON NFP PRESIDENT

What NFP Got Done in 2009

This has been a pretty good year for NFP. Obviously the national climate has been a little more favorable to peacemakers since the last election, and the Nebraska political climate may be a bit more so too. People are even becoming complacent again. If popularity was determined solely by the number of bumper stickers seen in Lincoln, you’d think that NFP was the most popular organization in the state. Unfortunately that’s not the case. We still have an uphill battle to persuade Nebraskans of the folly of our common resort to violence and war, and we are continuing to have a tough go of it in the area of finances — to do what we need to do and pay our excellent staff a living wage.

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Fran Kaye Named ATM Peacemaker of the Year

RUTH THONE

Representatives of Nebraska’s peace and justice organizations gathered this past August to honor Fran Kaye, Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Great Plains Institute, as the “Peacemaker of the Year.”

Upwards to half a hundred people turned out for the “Alternatives to the Military” (ATM) annual pot luck supper and salute at Christ United Methodist Church.

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Medicare for All

HENDRIK VAN DEN BERG 
UNL PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS

The discussion over healthcare has gone off track. While the media obsess over ridiculous people shouting about death panels and an impending socialist takeover of our government, the private healthcare/insurance industry is quietly ushering through Congress legislation that raises their profits — and our medical costs — even further. So let’s put the discussion back on track with a few important facts and a realistic policy option that actually improves Americans’ health.

We’re last among developed countries

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Cat Lovers Against the Bomb

Speak Your Peace

Cat Lovers Against the Bomb

Now Available!
Cat Lovers Against the Bomb
2010 Wall Calendar

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