One thing I’ve been thinking as the Gulf oil leak continues is how that catastrophe should influence our environmental priorities. A lot more was written and said about climate change over the past ten years than about the risks of deep-water drilling. That doesn’t mean that climate change isn’t a real problem, but is it the #1 problem that we face? And is it being addressed in the right way?
Sometimes I wonder whether climate change is the modern version of strategic arms talks. During the Cold War, massive efforts were put into negotiations on limiting increases in nuclear weapons. That was a real problem, but I think now most people agree that those efforts were largely a waste of time. They didn’t make the world safer. What made the world safer was a political change that defused the underlying tension. Nobody today cares that Russia has lots of nuclear warheads or whether they have more than we do.
Similarly, it seems to me that the solution to climate change is the development of a new and inexpensive energy source, not a new and complicated regulatory scheme for emissions. I have confidence that governments can speed up the development of the hydrogen car. I don’t have confidence in their ability to construct or administer cap-and-trade in an effective way.