Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bottom-up climate policy

Climate is global and climate policy (if there is to be one) has to be international.  Local emissions policies make no sense; they impose local costs with little if any local benefits.  Even the Europeans' cap-and-trade program is not of an adequate global scale.  Permit prices have been falling ("As carbon prices sink, unease rises") because local permit demand is limited.  As a result, incentive effects to adopt cleaner technologies are muted.

It would function more like the textbook version if there was a single global cap-and-trade.  But that will never happen.  International unity on the issue only exists at the level of feel-good platitudes and communiques.

What to do?  Natural gas is replacing coal in the U.S.  The power plants that burn them will continue to get cleaner -- as they have been for many years.  The many "doomsday" forecasts rest on assumptions of static technology.  That assumption becomes sillier by the minute.