A Harvard academic has put the blame squarely for America's failure to act on climate change on environmental groups. She also argues that there is little prospect Barack Obama will put climate change on the top of his agenda in his second term.
In a research paper, due to be presented at a Harvard forum next month, scholar Theda Skocpol in effect accuses the DC-based environmental groups of political malpractice, saying they were blind to extreme Republican opposition to their efforts.
Environmental groups overlooked growing opposition to environmental protections among conservatives voters and, underestimated the rising force of the Tea Party, believing – wrongly, as it turned out – they could still somehow win over Republican members of Congress through "insider grand bargaining".
That fatal misreading of the political realities – namely, the extreme polarisation of Congress and the Tea Party's growing influence among elected officials – doomed the effort to get a climate law through Congress. It will also make it more difficult to achieve climate action in the future, she added.
Skocpol, meanwhile, lets Obama off the hook for the political inaction on climate change, overturning the conventional wisdom among environmental leaders that political cowardice by the White House ultimately doomed climate legislation.