So now it’s official. As the New York Times put it in their lead editorial today:
On Thursday, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, abandoned the fight for meaningful energy and climate legislation. The Republicans — surprise — had been fiercely obstructionist.
In its editorial, the Times argues that energy and climate legislation must, at a minimum, include a “cap on power plant emissions,” among a list of policy prescriptions.
Too bad the editorial board doesn’t seem to have paid any heed to the wisdom of Stephen Schneider, the renowned climate scientist who died this week. Schneider argued that we should be pursuing “no regrets” policies first — ones with “paybacks comparable to or better than normal return on investments.” We should start with these “win wins” and build “to more difficult steps such as establishing a shadow price for carbon.”
We’ve known about the risks of climate change for 30 years. The world has been trying for 20 years to craft a global solution based on capping emissions. And here we are again, with yet another editorial railing against the latest failure to enact such a cap. Once again, the New York Times seems to be saying that a comprehensive, top-down approach with some variant of cap and trade at its core is the only possible path forward.
But if you’ve been banging your head against the wall for 20 years in an attempt to break it down and get to the other side, might it be a good idea to stop for a minute to mop up the blood and ask yourself whether a different approach would make more sense? At a certain point, wouldn’t it be prudent to start pursuing alternatives to cap-and-trade?
As Andrew Revkin reported back in June, across the board, Americans “are, at best, neutral on the value of a cap-and-trade approach to restricting greenhouse gas emissions, but neutral to extremely enthusiastic about initiatives offering incentives to move to efficient or non-polluting energy choices.” Revkin cited the findings from the ‘Six Americas’ study of opinions on climate change.
In that report, even cap-and-trade garnered significant support — but only if the government also offered rebates or tax “bonuses” to offset the higher energy costs created by the policy. With a $180 bonus per household, for example, fully 66 percent of those surveyed said they would either “strongly” or “somewhat” support a cap-and-trade system.
Of course, public opinion isn’t the only factor determining whether legislation will pass, and in the case of cap-and-trade, it can be argued that powerful business, political and regional interests were equally if not mostly to blame.
Those interests are the wall, and maybe now we should stop banging our head against it and try to find a way simply to get around it.