Beyond the debt and the deficit, in Daniels’s telling, all other issues fade to comparative insignificance. He’s an agnostic on the science of global warming but says his views don’t matter. “I don’t know if the CO2 zealots are right,” he said. “But I don’t care, because we can’t afford to do what they want to do. Unless you want to go broke, in which case the world isn’t going to be any greener. Poor nations are never green.”Sigh. As far as visible pollutants are concerned, Daniels is mostly right: rich nations have managed to control emissions that cause localized problems like smog and acid rain, while a miserably poor city like Dhaka suffers from stifling pollution. But with carbon dioxide, it's the exact opposite: superficially cleaner rich nations are the worst offenders, as demonstrated by this Wikipedia map of per capita emissions statistics from the International Energy Agency:
See the deep red country in the Western Hemisphere? That's us—the United States has higher emissions per capita than any other large nation. Poor countries, meanwhile, emit next to nothing: Bangladesh, for instance, has less than 2% of the United States's per capita emissions.
Daniels' ignorance on this question—not to mention his casual dismissal of "CO2 zealots"—reflects a sad failure to understand the difference between carbon dioxide and "pollution" in general. Daniels and his ilk see the crowded, smoggy capital of a developing country and assume that it's playing a large role in carbon emissions—after all, it looks polluted. In reality, countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia contribute to climate change in an overwhelmingly disproportionate way. Until they take leadership to resolve the global collective action problem, climate change is likely to continue unabated.