Is a global agreement to combat global warming even necessary? What about simply leveling the playing field for alternative energies, and then letting the market “choose” new, cheaper technologies? This is an argument made by Hermann Scheer in this month’s issue of Ode magazine (widely distributed at COP)—and when considered objectively (it is vulnerable to being distorted by ideological conservatives who make no effort to understand even a limited role of government), the argument is an optimistic one to any who might be disillusioned if Copenhagen produces little, if anything, in the form of a decisive collective commitment to respond to climate change. It acquired some renewed momentum, too, after the commitments made at the G-20 meeting in September to start phasing out the enormous subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. It’s not a new argument, and there are some potential problems that would need to be worked out: in the short-term, unless subsidies are rerouted to the renewables sector, we would be facing higher energy costs, which would hurt economic growth; and the argument doesn’t account for helping developing nations to adopt cleaner technologies, themselves, or adapt to the changes that will occur due to the CO2 already in the atmosphere.
Check out this graphic from the Environmental Law Institute and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars:
(Hey, to all those out there blanketing “environmentalists” as hypocrites because we drive cars and heat our homes: Isn’t it possible that we are pushing for change so that we can make more sustainable technologies affordable?)