Op-Ed: To Fight Climate Change, Think Politics First, and Often

Protest Green New Deal, San Fran - Photo Peg Hunter via Flickr CC

By Nathan Lobel, Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment|Feb. 26, 2019

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that we have little more than a decade to stave off climate catastrophe. Avoiding such a fate, the panel warned, “would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems… unprecedented in terms of scale.”

Punctuating a year of natural and political climate-related disasters, the IPCC report sparked renewed calls for action. Economists, environmentalists, and policy elites took to the nation’s opinion pages with a common prescription: to fight climate change, Congress should put a price on carbon, thus “internalizing” the social cost of fossil fuel consumption.

From one perspective, converging on carbon pricing makes lots of sense — after all, carbon prices are often thought to be the most efficient means to mitigate climate change. But, despite its theoretical utility, carbon pricing has also struggled to deliver the real and drastic emissions reductions that we so desperately need.

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