Is Barack Obama committed to addressing climate change? Or is he simply using it as a pretext to raise trade barriers to protect American industry?

For all Barack Obama’s talk about rejecting new trade barriers, there is an increasing awareness around the world that the United States is planning to introduce climate-change legislation that amounts to little more than green protectionism.

The Chinese get it. This week, a top advisor to the Chinese government warned that a proposed tax levied on imports to cover carbon contained in U. S.-bound products “smells like protectionism” and threatened to challenge the law at the World Trade Organization.

Now, Jim Prentice, Canada’s Environment Minister, appears to get it, too.

He said the border tax proposed in legislation introduced into the House of Representatives by California Democrat Henry Waxman “is an issue.”

As Ivison suggests, the Obama administration is proposing to make others pay for U.S. reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In effect, the U.S. will become the carbon free rider of the international economy.

In the process, Obama’s actions will provoke an increase in trade barriers around the world (à la Smoot-Hawley) that risks turning a nasty global recession into a full-blown depression. Sadly, I don’t think that is what most people thought he meant by “change”.