If you haven't noticed from the ridiculously mild winter we've been having so far in the US there is a serious problem with human caused climate change.
I can't call it. But I do know this. Despite the current US Administration's enthusiasm for green energy, super high CAFE standards and neutral to negative outlook on fossil fuels the reality is that neither the internal combustion engine or our reliance on oil, coal and natural gas is going away anytime soon. There doesn't look like there's anything yet to replace the big three in terms of cost, reliability, and efficiency. Perhaps a physicist or engineer can chime in on the efficiency question.
That hasn't stopped some more impatient environmentalists from proposing a carbon tax, something the Administration has hinted support for, even as it has refused to follow a EU carbon tax that would have impacted American airliners in Europe. Since pollution is a negative externality (the cost of an activity is not borne solely by those in the market) theoretically a carbon tax would more closely approximate the true cost of using fossil fuels which means people would be less likely to use fossil fuels and thus contribute less to climate change. So everyone wins. Or at least the planet wins.
The issue though is not only would a carbon tax slightly reduce economic activity and hurt the economy but obviously a carbon tax in the US is no good if other countries don't also impose one. Otherwise industry would just move to the areas without carbon taxes. China, India and Brazil are the big new contributors to climate change. They, historically have been less than enthusiastic about the idea of limiting their economic growth because of what the United States or Europe wants to do. It is easy to tell someone else don't do the bad things you did when you still have the benefits of doing those bad things. And if you did bad things to those people (imperialism, colonialism, slavery) you can't really blame them if they aren't eager to listen to your ideas about their economies. It's only when people see a personal/national benefit to taking steps to control climate change that they do so. This is slowly starting to happen. Maybe too slowly.
If you are in the First World, you might cast a worried eye at the massive populations of China, India and Africa, and mutter about planet carrying capacity. You may agree with Agent Smith and point out that the best solution for climate change is that those populations get incentives (or be forced) to stop their growth. Obviously your POV might change were you in the Third World. Then you might become an expert on the incredibly wasteful lifestyle that we take for granted in the US. You might think that Americans needed to lose some weight, drive less and move towards a more "natural" lifestyle, one that may be more common outside of the US or Europe.
So there's the problem. Most people agree that human caused climate change is real and something ought to be done about it. The question is what are you willing to give up? How do we balance economic activity and reduction of carbon emissions? If someone wants a 4000 square foot home are we going to tell that person he can't have it because heating it is wasteful? And since this is a global problem, how do we get everyone on board? Theoretically the US could