Writing for Grist, Randy Rieland has come up with a summary of arguments about why cap-and-trade is dead in the United States for now. He is right to say that the blame lies primarily with Congress, rather than with the Obama administration. Congress is the most powerful branch of government, and has been highly effective at blocking environmental legislation in the past. While the Democratic leadership in Congress is theoretically allied with the administration in the White House, even the two together clearly haven’t been able to overcome the wall of opposition to meaningful climate policies that has been constructed by Republicans, or the cowardice of moderate Democrats who are unwilling to fight to address this key problem.
The stragic question now becomes how to change Congressional behaviour, and do so before climate-related disasters become so frequent as to finally discredit climate change deniers completely. We cannot afford to wait that long, both because of the physical lags in the Earth’s climate system and the lags in our own infrastructure deployment. By the time the full danger of climate change is unambiguously on display, it will be too late to avoid some terrible effects. It will also be too late for the relatively unintrusive policies being proposed today to work. Sterner stuff will be required.