With a bang in Copenhagen and a whimper in the U.S. Senate, the 20-year effort to deal with global warming by capping emissions and putting a price on carbon has come to an end. In the wake of the crash, climate advocates have advanced a range of ideas about how to move forward. Some suggest that a scaled-back version of cap-and-trade, focused only on the utility sector, might work. Others say we need a carbon tax that refunds all its revenue to the public. Still others insist that we must build a stronger political movement to overcome the opposition of climate skeptics and fossil fuel interests.
Unfortunately, most of these strategies only dress up the failed solutions of the last several decades in new clothing. In order to move beyond these unsuccessful strategies, climate advocates must come to terms with why those efforts have failed. Doing so requires abandoning many deeply held assumptions that have informed climate policy and advocacy for decades.
To start, we must acknowledge that current technology is insufficient to significantly reduce emissions. Today’s low-carbon technologies are simply too expensive and too difficult to sc... Read more