I've also been consistent in saying that the solution should be forward looking, not backward looking. Don't turn off all the lights, kill all cars and shut down the airports; rather, find cleaner, cheaper ways tap energy and apply it. (If someone would figure out how to replace airplanes with "Beam me over, Scottie", I'd be most appreciative).
Today's Guardian has an article about one James Hanson, who seems to be the fellow who invented the whole subject of global warming. As you might expect from a scientist, he's got no patience for the politicians:
Hansen is also fiercely critical of Barack Obama – and even Al Gore, who won a Nobel peace prize for his efforts to get the world to act on climate change – saying politicians have failed to meet what he regards as the moral challenge of our age. In Hansen's view, dealing with climate change allows no room for the compromises that rule the world of elected politics. "This is analagous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill," he said. "On those kind of issues you cannot compromise. You can't say let's reduce slavery, let's find a compromise and reduce it 50% or reduce it 40%."
This black and white unworldliness, a fierce focus on one issue to the detriment of all others that face mankind, may well be what enabled Hansen to succeed in his crusade. It also underlines why cynical, compromising politicians may be more appealing types than fanatic scientists. Further on in the interview, however, he makes a startling point about cap-and-trade:
He is scathing of that approach. "This is analagous to the indulgences that the Catholic church sold in the middle ages. The bishops collected lots of money and the sinners got redemption. Both parties liked that arrangement despite its absurdity. That is exactly what's happening," he said. "We've got the developed countries who want to continue more or less business as usual and then these developing countries who want money and that is what they can get through offsets [sold through the carbon markets]."
The Economist, which I read regularly, is a staunch advocate of cap-and-trade. To me it has always seemed pure humbug. Rather than investing trillions in developing better technologies, it suggests a fiendishly complicated and nontransparent system in which the trillions move endlessly through banks, copiously shedding commissions as they go, and at the end of the process a polluting factory in, say, Germany, pays some fellow in Indonesia not to cut down trees. The polluter still pollutes, and the trees are nice. How have we moved forward?
Apparently Hanson agrees. Who'd have thunk.