I'm caught on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, I genuinely want to see us enact a stiff carbon tax to prevent global warming. On the other hand, I have long been extremely skeptical that any solution to the problems of global warming was possible, and have been yelled at by progressives who demand to know what my solution is, then--as if the belief that no political solution would be forthcoming were some sort of a stalling tactic.
Now I see progressives coming around to my point of view,
Long story short, my best guess is that Obama's climate proposals are too ambitious to be enacted and too timid to avert catastrophe.
I have become increasingly pessimistic about our ability to address the climate change crisis. The dynamics are simply deadly -- the most dangerous effects begin arriving after it's too late to do anything about them -- which leaves as our great hope the chance that a strong enough intellectual argument can be made to convince us all to challenge thousands of entrenched interests (among them our own) and significantly change the path of policy. Frankly, there's nothing in our history that suggests this is possible. Time and again, slow-burning environmental crises have emerged to devastate civilizations. That we're smart enough to see it coming and understand the mechanisms involved only renders our failure more tragic.
I'd be gloating about it if it didn't involve, y'know, celebrating an utter disaster. The most I can muster is an extremely grim satisfaction in the accuracy of my analysis.
The politics of global warming are simply dreadful--not merely because, as Ryan notes, it's tempting to wait and see, but also because there's a massive free rider problem. While George Bush was in office, progressives (or so I mote) deluded themselves that the problem was one of evil leadership that didn't care about the environment. Now that Barack Obama is coming in, that belief has become insupportable. Either Barack Obama, too, is evil and doesn't care . . . or it is not politically possible for any American leader to take serious action on global warming.
(Nor, as yet, any European leader, before we start whining about selfish Americans--I've been listening to EU ETS proponents tell me that the system had finally ironed all the bugs out and was really going to start reducing emissions for years now. )
Where does that leave us? We've focused on reducing emissions because that seemed like the easiest engineering problem, which may well be true. But the best engineering solution may not be the best economic solution, and it certainly isn't necessarily the best political solution. It seems like it might be wise to focus more energy on carbon sequestration, which may be technically much more difficult, but is politically worlds easier.