Jonah Goldberg

Thirty Kyotos! That's going to be tough considering that China alone plans on building an additional 2,200 coal plants by 2030. Oh, but because China (like India) is exempt from Kyoto as a developing country, the West will just have to reduce its own emissions even more.

A more persuasive cost-benefit analysis hinges not on prophecies of environmental doom but on geopolitics. We buy too much oil from places we shouldn't, which makes us dependent on nasty regimes and makes those regimes nastier. Environmentalists like to claim the "energy independence" issue, but it's not a neat fit. We could be energy independent soon enough with coal and nuclear power. But coal contributes to global warming, and nuclear power is icky. So, instead, we're going to massively subsidize the government-brewed moonshine called ethanol. Here again, the benefits barely outweigh the costs. Ethanol requires almost as much energy to make as it provides, and the costs to the environment and the economy may be staggering.

Frankly, I don't think the trade-off is worth it - yet. The history of capitalism and technology tells us that what starts out expensive and arduous becomes cheap and easy over time. Lewis and Clark took months to do what a truck carrying Tickle-Me Elmos does every week. Technology 10 years from now could solve global warming at a fraction of today's costs. What technologies? I don't know. Maybe fusion. Maybe hydrogen. Maybe we'll harness the perpetual motion of Sen. Joe Biden's mouth.

The fact is we can't afford to fix global warming right now, in part because poor countries want to get rich, too. And rich countries, where the global warming debate is settled, are finding even the first of 30 Kyotos too fiscally onerous. There are no solutions in the realm of the politically possible. So why throw trillions of dollars into "remedies" that even their proponents concede won't solve the problem?


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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