How not to achieve progress on climate policy

Holman Jenkins writes in today’s WSJ

Since climate change moved to center stage and became the holy cause of the green movement 20 years ago, greenhouse gases have grown faster than ever. The climate-change lobby has devolved into an angry cult. It does not seek to build bridges to others. It has run, by now, an exhaustive experiment showing conclusively that hysterical doom-mongering and vilifying skeptics as the equivalent of Holocaust deniers is a recipe for political failure.

Most of all, it has abdicated on the crucial grounds of cost and benefit, though it’s entirely possible to envision climate-related policies that would meet a cost-benefit test. Investing in basic science and research is almost always high-return. All governments must tax something; most governments tax hundreds of things. A carbon tax is one strategy that could command support across the political spectrum if sold with a touch of the conciliatory mind-set that is crucial to democracy.

The idea was not alien to the green movement, before it went insane. In the 1990s, environmentalists promoted a “double dividend” strategy—in which a carbon tax would be used to reduce taxes on socially useful activities like work and investment. As the Resources for the Future’s Richard Morgenstern said in a 1996 paper: “Taxes on labor discourage work effort; those on savings reduce the pool of capital available for investment; and those on investment discourage risk-taking.”

Today’s greens and their Democratic allies would rather chant about the need for impossible, inherently corrupting, never-going-to-happen command-and-control actions to ban fossil fuels and subsidize alternative energy. And bonkers beyond words are the legionnaires of Naomi Klein, who insist that before we can address climate change, we must get rid of capitalism. Whatever is driving such people, it’s not a desire for progress on climate policy.

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