While the often snarling tenor of the debate on anthropogenic climate change becomes a cottage industry, economists and others are pointing out a new and, I think, reasonable question:
The charged and complex debate over how to slow down global warming has become a lot more complicated.I don't expect you to swallow this, but during my moments of discouragement over this issue as hopelessly entwined with politics, I too envisioned a stalemate until 1) people were drowning or starving as a result or 2) the next Bill Gates comes up with technology to obsolete fossil fuels.
Most of the focus in the last few years has centered on imposing caps on greenhouse gas emissions to prod energy users to conserve or switch to nonpolluting technologies.
Leaders of the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change — the scientists awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year with former Vice President Al Gore — have emphasized that market-based approach. All three presidential candidates are behind it. And it has framed international talks over a new climate treaty and debate within the United States over climate legislation.
But now, with recent data showing an unexpected rise in global emissions and a decline in energy efficiency, a growing chorus of economists, scientists and students of energy policy are saying that whatever benefits the cap approach yields, it will be too little and come too late. [More]
It could be that 1) will occur causing to 2) to occur. As the discourse labors on the economic return to energy producing and saving technology rises rapidly. We (Boomers) may be the last generation to treat the issue cavalierly, and if the recession we seem to be headed for lasts as long as I think, energy consumption patterns will be shifted geographically forever.
In fact, while climate change skeptics can't burn enough stuff fast enough, I can imagine a future where to do so would be lame beyond belief - the future equivalent of wearing polyester suits.