Is optimism building that the United States--and the rest of the world--can address global warming?
A series of extreme weather events -- including droughts, wildfires, and heat waves -- have thrust the topic of climate change into the limelight. Some influential energy experts, both conservative and moderate, are mulling a carbon tax to control fossil-fuel-generated emissions of greenhouse gases, which most scientists agree are causing global warming. Recent studies have shown that carbon emissions in the United States and other developed countries have actually stabilized and even decreased, due in part to increased reliance on natural gas over coal (the former results in 50 percent fewer carbon emissions than the latter). Some experts and prominent thinkers, such as New York Times' David Leonhardt are also saying that despite the odds, the nascent renewable-energy industries are thriving as costs continue to come down.
Are these trends, or at least perceived trends, taken together signs that the United States and other parts of the world can come together in a way to address global warming even without an overarching agreement to cut greenhouse-gas emissions? What else is needed in order to spur more concrete action on this front? Is a carbon tax possible, both politically and economically? What other options should be on the table?