Hey, remember how at the first Earth Summit in 1992, the US & Japan governments blocked action on carbon taxes and binding global targets on greenhouse gases, saying that such things would push oil to above $30 a barrel? Remember George HW Bush saying, “The American Lifestyle is not up for negotiation”? Remember the horror stories of possible $45 oil, and how that would destroy the world economy? (And yeah, I know that austerity is never a winning platform, and these governments were just hand-puppets of the big car and oil companies. But imagine if they had taken leadership in convincing the companies of the long-term benefit of the simple, elegant solutions already being proposed at the time — like a harmonized carbon tax across developed countries.)
And remember the activist groups who saw climate talks as an opportunity to load in every pet issue, from dismantling the World Bank to increasing aid for poor countries to stopping free trade agreements, rather than just focusing on the task at hand, which was to reduce fossil fuel consumption? (And yeah, I’m as holistic as the next guy, but no, poor countries wouldn’t have been hurt by a carbon tax — at least not as much as they’ve been hurt by the last decade of volatile oil prices. Indeed, some of the biggest success stories in the developing world, such as Brazil and Chile, have high fuel taxes, while the countries like Venezuela and Bolivia that subsidize fuel as a path to development have struggled.)
Anyway, thanks, everybody. There’s another Earth Summit coming up in Rio in June. This article (a couple months old already) gives a good sense of the prospects — which can be summed up by saying that we are on track to join other “dominant” species.
PS: At the first Earth Summit, I was the only person to arrive daily by bicycle. On that, at least, we’ve made some progress.