Chris Dodd says the right things.

To my mind, he’s every bit as good on climate change as John Edwards and Bill Richardson, if not better.

Putting aside political feasibility and the electability of any of these candidates, what’s the best way to look at their policy proposals? I think there are two important things to note. The first and most obvious is a policy’s particular goals. On that score, Richardson wins. He calls for a 90 percent reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050, which is better than Dodd and Edwards who call for 80 percent reductions over the same time span.

The second, though, is the likely effectiveness of the policies themselves, and here Dodd is second to none. Unlike Richardson, he’s not biochemically averse to the idea of tax hikes, so he’s combined a cap-and-trade program with a carbon tax and increased CAFE standards — and in doing so, has compiled the boldest menu of emissions-fighting tactics of any of the candidates.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

What may be unanswerable is the question of how much invisible impact setting more ambitious goals has. In a strictly academic exercise like this one, it may not matter. (And I’d be stuck in a state of inconsolable joy if any of these plans became national policy.)

This is all just to say that Dodd deserves his share of support from environmentalists.

Postscript: The other question that may not be answerable is how sincere Dodd or any of his peers are about environmental issues. This funny little exchange, though, suggests at the least that Dodd hasn’t been thinking about this issue very long or in great depth:

[AGL]: What environmental achievement are you proudest of in your career?

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

[Dodd]: That’s a good question. It’s been a lot of support for things rather than anything I’ve actually initiated. You know, the issue dealing with the Alaskan, you know, the …

[AGL]: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?

[Dodd]: Yeah, I’ve been a strong supporter of that.

Yeah, that one!