Step one involves actually talking about global warming. For years now, the accepted wisdom in the best green circles was: talk about anything else -- energy independence, oil security, beating the Chinese to renewable technology. I was at a session convened by the White House early in the Obama administration where some polling guru solemnly explained that "green jobs" polled better than "cutting carbon."
Step two, we have to ask for what we actually need, not what we calculate we might possibly be able to get. If we're going to slow global warming in the very short time available to us, then we don't actually need an incredibly complicated legislative scheme that gives door prizes to every interested industry and turns the whole operation over to Goldman Sachs to run. We need a stiff price on carbon, set by the scientific understanding that we can't still be burning black rocks a couple of decades hence. That undoubtedly means upending the future business plans of Exxon and BP, Peabody Coal and Duke Energy, not to speak of everyone else who's made a fortune by treating the atmosphere as an open sewer for the byproducts of their main business.
Instead they should pay through the nose for that sewer, and here's the crucial thing: most of the money raised in the process should be returned directly to American pockets. The monthly check sent to Americans would help fortify us against the rise in energy costs, and we'd still be getting the price signal at the pump to stop driving that SUV and start insulating the house. We also need to make real federal investments in energy research and development, to help drive down the price of alternatives -- the Breakthrough Institute points out, quite rightly, that we're crazy to spend more of our tax dollars on research into new drone aircraft and Mars orbiters than we do on photovoltaics.
Tomgram: Bill McKibben, A Wilted Senate on a Heating Planet
There are economic structures around all the things that we want to go away. Cut off the head of the monsters oil and coal and what happens? Lost jobs. Oil and coal jobs, distributions systems jobs, coal fired electric plant jobs, parts manufacture for coal fired electric plant jobs, and on and on and on. We just saw an economic structure collapse in the gulf due to the spill. Small stuff compared to the impact of suddenly making oil and coal noncompetitive via carbon price.
But lets say just for grins than some tax on carbon is imposed. Costs of energy go up, but the revenues from those taxes go back into your pocket, so you pay the higher costs... and it's almost a wash. So we haven't accomplished anything.
No, I think we need a sea change in our culture. Like the change that got nearly everyone off cigarettes. One that would make it taboo to drive a Humvee, eat beef, stuff like that.
We need to be a thinking part of the machine, not some brainless cog.