This is quite possibly the most idiotic argument I’ve ever heard against cap and trade. Why is it bad?

By turning carbon emissions into commodities that can be bought and sold, cap-and-trade policies could remove the stigma from producing such emissions… the purchase of the right to emit greenhouse gases would likely reduce any stigma associated with doing so. Emission levels, consequently, could rise.  

Oh, lordy that’s a good one. But that’s from an op-ed in yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor written by Justin Danhof from The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative DC think-tank.

Could he be right? Could it be that the only thing standing between us and a climate crisis is stigma? We need more guilt!

According to Danhof, just a few more lectures from James Hansen and then Exxon executives will feel so guilty that they will reduce their emissions by 80 percent. Or something. 

Danhof supports his thesis by drawing on a study showing that social stigma was a more effective motivator in Israeli daycare centers than were fines for parents who arrived late. No, seriously, this is his strongest argument—he leads with it — it was true in six Israeli daycares. [Cue the drum sting.]

Is this guy a cut-up or what?

The rest of the piece is a mishmash of non-sequiters and misunderstandings. But here’s the thing about cap and trade: it has a cap, a legal limit on carbon. With a carbon cap, you get guaranteed carbon reductions on a set schedule. That’s sort of the main thing. You don’t need Danhof’s approach, which would presumably subject drive-alone commuters to weekly viewings of “An Inconvenient Truth” to gin up stigma so that they’ll ride the bus.

I don’t know, maybe it’s true that cap and trade might incidentially remove the stigma from carbon pollution. I mean, under a carbon cap we’d be assured of a climate-sustainble path—it would guaranteed by the legal reduction schedule—so folks might not worry so much about individual actions. Maybe. But I think most folks see that as a virtue. Cap and trade: no guilt required.