h/t Holman Jenkins in Climate Reporting’s Hot Mess
If the decades have validated any set of propositions, it’s the following: Mankind is unlikely to do anything meaningful about carbon dioxide as a matter of concerted public policy, and anything it does will be in the service of domestic pork interests, having no impact on climate.
Even if humanity could assert bureaucratic control over climate, the cost-benefit case would remain problematic—the costs being huge and the benefits necessarily being as uncertain as man’s role in causing climate change.
A carbon tax as part of pro-growth tax reform might pass a cost-benefit test mainly thanks to the nonclimate benefits of tax reform. Alas, no sign exists that a quorum of countries is ready to march together down this road. President Obama this week decided to use the tax-reform opportunity to pursue partisan class-warfare themes rather than advance a carbon tax proposal in exchange for lower rates.
So the climate problem, if there’s a problem, likely won’t be solved by some supreme effort of global bureaucratic will. But one could easily imagine it being solved by the normal, unwilled progress of technology. A battery—pick a number—five or 10 times more efficient than today’s, holding more energy and charging and discharging faster, would so revolutionize world energy practices that scientists would have to consider how a sudden decline in human carbon-dioxide emissions might affect the climate.
Solar and wind collection don’t have to be particularly efficient if storage becomes efficient. More solar energy reaches the earth’s surface in a year than is contained in all remaining reserves of fossil fuels and uranium. And to the inventor the financial and reputational rewards would be extravagant—which explains why billions of dollars are flowing into battery research.