So I'm back from Germany, having spent a useful week touring alternative energy projects (including the fusion reactor project of the Max Planck Institute, still decades away from working as hoped), and talking with various German officials and unofficials about climate and energy policy. Everyone is Obama-crazy in Germany, naturally; every shopkeeper, beer-hoister, and pretzel-monger wanted to give a shout out to the New Messiah.
Had one good meeting with a provincial environment minister--a very impressive young lady who should go far in German national politics if she wants to, in the CDU (the right-leaning party, such as it is there). After having my fill of nothing but climate issues, I decided to ask, since her department dealt with the environment as a whole and not just climate, what other environmental issues in Germany she thought were important.
"Well, we are doing a lot of work on flooding--flooding brought on by climate change." So you really can't change the subject after all.
Me: "What else? Forests? Toxic waste? Traditional air pollution?"
The minister: "Noise pollution. About 50 percent of our citizens say they are concerned about noise pollution." (And the other 50 percent are presumably listening to their iPods?--Ed. That's exactly what I said.)
Seems to me that when a rich country is worried about noise pollution, their major environmental problems are solved.