Cap-and-Trade Is Not Like the Space Race

Oct. 4.09 | About: CDC Corp. (CDCAQ)

KPC lays the beatdown on this Thomas Friedman column:

Even dumber than the notion that China, the world's biggest polluter, has gone green is the notion that going green is a zero sum competition. Friedman doesn't even try to argue for this point, he simply assumes it as self evident.

Actually, it's worse than that. If China (or any other country) reduces its emissions without the U.S. having to follow suit, that is a good thing for the U.S. Basically, Friedman is arguing that it is a bad thing for the U.S. if someone else pays the cost of reducing global emissions. That is... not the right way of looking at things.

If Friedman's view was right, there would be no coordination problem on climate change, since every state would be competing to lower their emissions. Bargaining over climate change would look nothing like the way it looks. It would resemble the space race, which (coincidentally) is the analogy Friedman uses. But bargaining over climate change doesn't look the space race in real life. One might think that this would lead Friedman to re-think his argument. It doesn't.

Also, we get a re-imagining of the Friedman Unit. It used to be a six month window into the future; apparently that left him too little wiggle room, because he's now trebled it and switched the direction:

I believe future historians may well conclude that the most important thing to happen in the last 18 months was that Red China decided to become Green China.

The fact that the modification doesn't improve his logic would be funny if it weren't so tragic.