I have not written much about climate of late because my interest, err, runs hot and cold. As most readers know, I am in the lukewarmer camp, meaning that I accept that Co2 is a greenhouse gas but believe that catastrophic warming forecasts are greatly exaggerated (in large part by scientifically unsupportable assumptions of strong net positive feedback in the climate system). If what I just said is in any way news to you, read this and this for background.
Anyway, one thing I have been saying for about 8 years is that when the history of the environmental movement is written, the global warming obsession will be considered a great folly. This is because global warming has sucked all the air out of almost anything else in the environmental movement. For God sakes, the other day the Obama Administration OK'd the wind industry killing more protected birds in a month than the oil industry has killed in its entire history. Every day the rain forest in the Amazon is cleared away a bit further to make room for ethanol-making crops.
This picture demonstrates a great example of what I mean. Here is a recent photo from China:
You might reasonably say, well that pollution is from the burning of fossil fuels, and the global warming folks want to reduce fossil fuel use, so aren't they trying to fight this? And the answer is yes, tangentially. But here is the problem: It is an order of magnitude or more cheaper to eliminate polluting byproducts of fossil fuel combustion than it is to eliminate fossil fuel combustion altogether.
What do I mean? China gets a lot of pressure to reduce its carbon emissions, since it is the largest emitter in the world. So it might build a wind project, or some solar, or some expensive high speed rail to reduce fossil fuel use. Let's say any one of these actions reduces smog and sulfur dioxide and particulate pollution (as seen in this photo) by X through reduction in fossil fuel use. Now, let's take whatever money we spent in, say, a wind project to get X improvement and instead invest it in emissions control technologies that the US has used for decades (coal plant scrubbers, gasoline blending changes, etc) -- invest in making fossil fuel use cleaner, not in eliminating it altogether. This same money invested in this way would get 10X, maybe even up to 100X improvement in these emissions.
By pressuring China on carbon, we have unwittingly helped enable their pollution problem. We are trying to get them to do 21st century things that the US can't even figure out how to do economically when in actuality what they really need to be doing is 1970's things that would be relatively easy to do and would have a much bigger impact on their citizen's well-being.