by Patrick Appel
Roberts wants more attention paid to the political consequences of climate policies:
If there are limits to how much a public is willing to pay in carbon taxes — and there obviously are, though they will vary from country to country and circumstance to circumstance — then it is important to think about what kinds of policies either increase willingness to pay or reduce the cost of carbon reductions. “Does this policy reduce carbon?” is not the only question. We must also ask, “does this policy create constituencies for further political action?” It is not only a policy’s effect on the economy that matters, but also its effect on political economy. (Jesse Jenkins wrote a great post about this, which you should read.)
A real policy, no matter how kludged and compromised, is always more efficacious than a theoretical policy. A carbon tax is the best (and only necessary) climate policy only on a blackboard or in a spreadsheet. In the real world, power and interests matter and anything that alters them in the right direction is desirable. Just as a carbon target means nothing until the policies and capabilities are in place, a carbon tax will only ever be as high as political economy allows.