Felix Salmon reflects on the reasons that a cap-and-trade regulation or any other major piece of environmental legislation is unlikely to become the law of the land:
Why has the Obama administration failed utterly to get anything at all done with respect to climate change? The issue was a major part of Obama’s 2008 platform, but it seemed to disappear as soon as he got elected, and the consensus on the climate change panel today was that there’s essentially zero chance that a cap-and-trade bill will become law in the foreseeable future.
One of the reasons is party-political: “Republicans chose to equate climate change with taxation,” said Milken’s Peter Passell, “and a well-financed campaign made climate change denial almost a litmus test for conservative orthodoxy”. Obviously, if you don’t believe in climate change, or if you say you don’t believe in climate change, then you’re never going to be remotely helpful with respect to crafting any kind of bill designed to address it.
But more profoundly — and the reason that the Democrats don’t seem particularly eager to get anything done on this front either — there’s the fact that climate-related legislation is one of those things which will create a large mass of winners with relatively little present-day political clout (us, our children, and our children’s children), alongside a small number of losers with extremely deep pockets and extensive lobbying arms.
I wouldn’t be inclined to quibble with his reasoning but at the same time it strikes me as a rather puny reason that a supposedly cataclysmic event has not resulted in a global response. Effectively, he seems to be saying that plutocrats and Republican deniers have conspired to prevent mankind from adopting programs which would forestall climate Armageddon. Remember, the Green movement has postulated that this is a fight for the very survival of the race.
Well, there is floating about a different analysis of the failure of the global warming contingent to make headway with their agenda. Walter Russell Mead chronicles the admission by one of the leading green thinkers that the movement has imploded from a lack of intellectual consistency:
George Monbiot of the left-leaning British newspaper The Guardianhas a must-read column in which he admits that because of a whole series of intellectual mistakes, the global green movement’s policy prescriptions are hopelessly flawed.
Read the whole piece for a thoughtful and brutally clear expose of the intellectual bankruptcy of the green movement from one of the smartest people in it. This is what I’ve been getting at for more than a year here: regardless of what is happening to Planet Earth, the green movement does not have coherent and workable solutions.
Greens like to have it both ways. They warn darkly about “peak oil” and global resource shortages that will destroy our industrial economy in its tracks — but also warn that runaway economic growth will destroy the planet through the uncontrolled effects of mass industrial productions. Both doomsday scenarios cannot be true; one cannot simultaneously die of both starvation and gluttony.
I strongly recommend you read Mead’s entire post as well as Monbiot’s. They chronicle the complete failure of the green movement to articulate solutions which make any coherent sense in the context of existing energy realities.
The first decade of this century might well go down as one in which whole populations lost faith in technocrats and their supposed expertise. From noted economists and central bankers who assured us that financial systems were self-regulating, to assertions that the system could well accommodate a small burp in a subprime mortgage market, to energy companies which contended they could manage the drilling of oil wells in ultra-deep waters, to nuclear engineers who found no risk in building power plants near an ocean in one of the most tectonically unstable areas of the planet and finally to an environmental movement that was shown to have systematically suppressed any data which cast doubt upon its theses we have been presented with serial failures. Is it any wonder why the global warming movement has failed to gain traction?
I don’t dispute Salmon’s assertion that vested interests most likely worked to thwart the enactment of any meaningful carbon limiting legislation. I think the bigger story is, however, that the public which he portrays as the disenfranchised party never bought into the proposed solutions. At some level they recognized the paucity of the arguments that the green movement put forth and have steadily lost faith in the ability of “experts” to deliver the goods.
In the end though, Felix is right. Our salvation probably lies in technological solutions to the problem. Drastic reduction of carbon emissions, if ever a remote possibility, has been relegated to the dust bin by the bankruptcy of the green movement.