This is quite possibly the most idiotic argument I’ve ever heard against cap-and-trade. Why is it bad?

By turning carbon emissions into commodities that can be bought and sold, cap-and-trade policies could remove the stigma from producing such emissions … the purchase of the right to emit greenhouse gases would likely reduce any stigma associated with doing so. Emission levels, consequently, could rise.

Oh, lordy, that’s a good one. But that’s from an op-ed in yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor written by Justin Danhof from The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative D.C. think-tank.

Could he be right? Could it be that the only thing standing between us and a climate crisis is stigma? We need more guilt!

According to Danhof, just a few more lectures from James Hansen and then Exxon executives will feel so guilty that they will reduce their emissions by 80 percent. Or something.

Danhof supports his thesis by drawing on a study showing that social stigma was a more effective motivator in Israeli daycare centers than were fines for parents who arrived late. No, seriously, this is his strongest argument — he leads with it — it was true in six Israeli daycares. [Cue the drum sting.]

Is this guy a cut-up or what?

The rest of the piece is a mishmash of non-sequiturs and misunderstandings. But here’s the thing about cap-and-trade: it has a cap, a legal limit on carbon. With a carbon cap, you get guaranteed carbon reductions on a set schedule. That’s sort of the main thing. You don’t need Danhof’s approach, which would presumably subject solo commuters to weekly viewings of an Inconvenient Truth in order to gin up enough stigma so that they’d take the bus.

I don’t know, maybe it’s true that cap-and-trade might incidentally remove the stigma from carbon pollution. I mean, we’d be assured we were on a climate-sustainable path — guaranteed by the legal reduction schedule — so folks might not worry so much about discrete individual actions. Maybe. But I think most of us would see that as a virtue: cap-and-trade — no guilt required.