Responding To Manzi

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A reader writes:

Manzi is, from what I've read of his stuff (and I haven't read it all), absolutely right.  Pure cap-and-trade/regulatory programs, including Kyoto, are basically worthless and dead.  I say this as a flaming leftist environmentalist, but it wasn't Manzi who convinced me.  It was Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, in their 2004 essay(pdf), "The Death of Environmentalism."  The pair has since gone on to write a follow-up book and maintain a blog, but for a quick introduction the original essay is a 30 minute read and worth every minute.

The core premise is that the model of environmentalism that emerged from the 70s was all about a combination of saying "no" to various forms of pollution and building regulatory structures.  At all points, economic expansion was seen as a problem, not as a benefit.  All of this has failed miserably to do anything about global warming, for which we've had good evidence for 15 years.

S&N argue that fundamentally, climate change remediation simply won't happen until it's tied to a program for job creation, economic growth, and a vision of a future that doesn't solely focus on a better environment, but also focuses on a better life for us all.  Here, they and Manzi agree.

Where they depart, and where you'll probably get indigestion, is in that they recommend a strong program of environmentally advantageous economic stimuli, from a national sustainable energy initiative, state investment in rail infrastructure, and a general focus on investment over regulation.

So add another argument into the mix.  There's the old debate, with the Lieberman-Warner mess on one end, still trying to use the techniques that fought acid rain and smog on global warming, and the deniers on the other end covering their ears and screaming.  The new debate has Manzi on one end saying, "it can't be done, so quit trying," and Shellenberger and Nordhaus on the end saying, "proper government investment means economic growth and greenhouse reductions."  My guess is that by the time 2012 rolls around and we're doing this Presidential thing all over again, we'll be thoroughly ensconced in the new debate.

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