Planet Gore

The Least Worst Way Forward

Personally, I’m not ready to give up on John McCain just yet.
But I wish he would take the advice of Bjørn Lomborg. (Or Planet Gore contributor Jim Manzi, for that matter.) Like McCain, Lomborg believes global warming is real. But, as Kathryn Lopez writes in the intro to her interview with Lomborg on NRO today, “Lomborg takes a cold, hard look at the empirical facts, and weighs the costs and benefits of global warming (which he does not deny) and the policy solutions advanced to restrain it. His recommendation: Calm down.”
Wouldn’t it be the lesser of two evils for McCain, instead of trying to paint a costly cap-and-trade scheme as a “market” solution — despite the fact that the carbon ration coupons will be given away rather than auctioned off — to set aside a smaller chunk of taxpayer money to incentivize technological advances in alternative fuels? [I know, I know — I’ll be getting grief at the Milton Friedman Prize dinner tomorrow night.]
What doesn’t come out in the interview with Kathryn on the topic of that .05 of GDP investment — but which I mentioned in my write-up of the one-man debate Lomborg headlined in New York last month – is that Lomborg advises this government investment in the form of cash awards. Ideally, this would mean that instead of distributing government grants in a highly politicized process to do-nothing, risk-averse rent-seekers, the public money would go to reward researchers who have made significant piece-of-the-puzzle technological breakthroughs — breakthroughs that, on their own, may not be marketable, but that advance the science (and future marketability) of new technologies.

We can always hope that McCain changes his mind and decides against “doing something” for its own sake. [He seems so malleable and open to criticism.] But if he is going to do something, shouldn’t we be trying to persuade him to inflict the least damage when he does it?

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