September 08, 2011

Controlling #CO2: What chance do we have?

Gernot Wagner, an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, in a distressing, depressing, but honestly realistic op-ed at the NYT, says: Not a lot.

Unless we end what he calls "planetary socialism":
(M)arkets are truly free only when everyone pays the full price for his or her actions. Anything else is socialism. The reality is that we cannot overcome the global threats posed by greenhouse gases without speaking the ultimate inconvenient truth: getting people excited about making individual environmental sacrifices is doomed to fail.
That said, Wagner claims cap-and-trade systems are already cutting CO2 in Europe, and slated to do so "everywhere from China to California."

Not so fast. Tradeable caps were underpriced, and gamed, in the EU. I'll believe that cap-and-trade is workable in a nation as corrupt as China about 20 years after it's implemented. And, in California? Not too much good on a state-level bases, given the way our federal system works. And, CO2 isn't point-source pollution, so it's ... well, it's intellectually dishonest, in a sense, for him to point to cap-and-trade's success with point-source air pollutants.

So, Mr. Wagner should perhaps be more pessimistic. And more honest. Only carbon taxes, combined with carbon tariffs on recalcitrant nations, stand a real chance of success.

And, those of us who recognize that should be depressed that another leading light in another Gang Green environmental organization can depress us, but ... won't depress us quite as much as is needed.

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