In Tuesday’s inaugural address, President Barack Obama delivered the following words:

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.”

The question remains: which of these challenges is our nation’s top priority? Unsurprisingly, according to the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, the American people feel the economy takes precedence.

What is surprising, however, is where global warming landed on the list. Dead last. 20th out of 20. Only 30% of Americans feel global warming should be a top priority while 85% rate the economy as a top priority. Global warming falls well behind jobs, social security, education and energy, and it even falls behind moral decline, lobbyists and trade policy. If dealing with lobbyists are a higher priority than global warming, frankly I’m surprised that the digital TV transition switch, Congress’s investigation of steroids in baseball or making ALF our national mascot aren’t up there, either.

In all seriousness, it does show that the momentum is changing. The apocalyptic fear mongering has dissipated and more scientists are questioning the science. The debate is far from over.

Even the general public is challenging the cause of global warming. According to a Rasmussen poll,

Forty-four percent (44%) of U.S. voters now say long-term planetary trends are the cause of global warming, compared to 41% who blame it on human activity. In July 2006, 46% of voters said global warming is caused primarily by human activities, while 35% said it is due to long-term planetary trends.”

Politically, the debate is far from over as well. California Rep. Henry Waxman, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, would like to have global warming legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by Memorial Day. Despite global warming not being a priority in the public’s eye, it might be in the eyes of certain politicians.

Whether the U.S. economy comes out of the recession by Memorial Day remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: global warming legislation will not help. The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis calculated the costs of global warming legislation in the U.S. alone and the cumulative GDP losses for 2010 to 2029 approach $7 trillion. Single-year losses exceed $600 billion in 2029, more than $5,000 per household. Annual job losses exceed 800,000 for several years. That’s a scary price to pay for what little, if any, environmental benefits we receive.

Global warming dissent and skepticism should not be suppressed. But the reality is once Congress enacts legislation to combat global warming, it will be extremely difficult to repeal – like most other bills. What happens if we enter into a period of global cooling? Given the track record of Congress, it wouldn’t surprise me if we somehow had global warming and global cooling laws on the books at the same time.