Douthat follows up:

Imagine that a more perfect version of cap-and-trade could have been smoothed into law by G.O.P. support. And let’s further bracket Manzi’s favorite debating terrain, the (extremely important) question of whether the costs of a carbon cap are worth the expected economic benefit, given the likely damage wrought by climate change. Even then, I still don’t understand how progressives can believe especially in the wake of the Copenhagan summit that this bill actually opens the way to an actual global insurance policy against catastrophic climate change. Spending 1 percent of our G.D.P. as a hedge against catastrophe might make sense; spending the same amount without any prospect of actually getting that insurance policy seems like idealistic folly. And so far, when it comes to actual mechanisms whereby Waxman-Markey becomes a model for the developing world, all I’ve heard from the left are neoconservative-style arguments about how “if the world’s leading power leads, everyone else will follow,” and visions of a carbon trade war between the West and China. Neither seems persuasive.

Actually, of course, the world's leading power (in terms of economic potential) is leading. China, that is.

And to say that we shouldn't start disincentives for carbon-use because we cannot guarantee a solution to climate change seems overly pessimistic and non-dynamist to me. My view is that, in the very end, humankind willl find some way to harness non-carbon energy to sustain our way of life - or we will return to a more rudimentary life style (if it isn't imposed on us by a WMD catastrophe). And the geo-strategic advantages of ending our addiction to mainly foreign oil are also surely to be taken into account. Anything that can get us out of the endless wars of the Middle East is well worth 1 percent of GDP, no?

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.