They invented it, and yet they don’t think it is the best way to approach global warming.

Mr. Crocker, who went on to become a professor at the University of Wyoming, is one of two economists who dreamed up cap-and-trade in the 1960s. The other, John Dales, who died in 2007, was also a skeptic of using the idea to tame global warning.

“It isn’t a cure-all for everything,” Mr. Dales said in an interview in 2001. “There are lots of situations that don’t apply.”

Mr. Crocker sees two modern-day problems in using a cap-and-trade system to address the global greenhouse-gas issue. The first is that carbon emissions are a global problem with myriad sources. Cap-and-trade, he says, is better suited for discrete, local pollution problems. “It is not clear to me how you would enforce a permit system internationally,” he says. “There are no institutions right now that have that power.”


The other problem, Mr. Crocker says, is that quantifying the economic damage of climate change — from floods to failing crops — is fraught with uncertainty. One estimate puts it at anywhere between 5% and 20% of global gross domestic product. Without knowing how costly climate change is, nobody knows how tight a grip to put on emissions.

In this case, he says Washington needs to come up with an approach that will be flexible and easy to adjust over a long stretch of time as more becomes known about damages from greenhouse-gas emissions. Mr. Crocker says cap-and-trade is better suited for problems where the damages are clear — like acid rain in the 1990s — and a hard limit is needed quickly.

…it is interesting to see just how tepid the academic support for Waxman-Markey is becoming. It’s not simply “shills for Big Oil and Big Coal” who oppose it, as many activists would have us believe.

On the contrary, even hardcore alarmists such as James Hansen have come out strongly opposed to Waxman-Markey.

What a mess!