Long before rising sea levels engulf Vancouver and Manhattan, conservative politicians may discover that they have missed the boat to the political high ground in Ottawa and Washington.
Right now, particularly in the U.S. but also in Canada, the right wingers are dumping on the whole notion of climate change, attacking the intelligence of those who believe the science on this. They sense, correctly, that this aligns with the current public fixation on pocketbook issues. Conveniently, it also harmonizes with the views of their corporate donors, few of which are among the new "green" industries, and most of which have a short-term focus on the bottom line.
In Canada, for conclusive proof, they can also point to the electorate's sound whupping of Stéphane Dion for his carbon tax ideas.
But political radar tends to be blind to anything beyond the next election cycle, and it may be missing an entire generation of under-30s for whom taking care of the planet is a deeply held value.
For them, recycling isn't something they had to learn. They grew up seeing it as normal practice. Their teachers, largely environmentally-sensitive folk, made sure they got the message about threatened polar bears and other potential victims of the greenhouse effect. They are appalled by the fact that Alberta's oil sands operations pump a huge amount of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Remember when the internet was mostly teenagers and college kids, pooh-poohed as a platform for business? Remember when it was ignored by politicians seeking office? When those kids got the votes and the incomes, look what happened.
Right now, the under-30s either have no votes, or have tuned out politics, which they view as hypocritical, ineffective, and out of touch with their issues.
But when they do tune in, and they will when they have kids and mortgages, they will be a major political force.
They will be a political force that thinks climate-change deniers have their heads in the (oil) sand, and they'll be looking for leaders who already have street cred on the environment.