Bill Clinton just gave a short speech and took a few questions from reporters. Some highlights:

When they were in office, Bill Clinton and Al Gore wanted to create a global carbon market. At the time, Europe thought the idea undesirable and unfeasible and didn’t offer any support. The effort failed. Now, years down the line, the world is a different place and the idea has much more purchase. Clinton, when asked for his thoughts on this, managed to turn all of his administration’s supposed failures — from health care to peace in the Middle East — into examples of his foresight: “It’s a great thing to fail at a good cause because it keeps free people stumbling in the right direction.” Clever. But also true.

So what does he support now? In response to a question about just that (it was the question I wanted to ask, but I guess I didn’t raise my hand high enough), Clinton said he still supports a carbon market. A carbon tax creates incentives to individuals, he said — but in theory, because it’s largely untested. He sounded open-minded, but believes that as a catalyst for innovation and with greater enforcement and consumer information, a carbon auction is still the preferable regulatory scheme.

Addendum the first: In answering a question about the empowerment of women in the world, he managed to offer a frighteningly complete history of the world in two minutes.

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Addendum the second: Apparently last year’s CGI meeting was followed via webcast by about 50,000 people. This year, Clinton announced, that number is 500,000 — a ten-fold increase. It’s not surprising that the CGI audience would grow as the event’s profile increased and technology spread and improved, but a 1000 percent increase over the course of one year is really remarkable.

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