A maintenance worker at solar farm in Zacoalco de Torres, Mexico. In 1969, in the middle of the spiraling U.S.-Soviet arms race, international relations expert McGeorge Bundy wrote a prescient article in Foreign Affairs about how to “cap the volcano” of armaments. Success in arms control, he explained, required a laser-like focus on the strategic incentives for both sides to change behavior and stick with their agreements. Awareness of the dangers of arms racing, by itself, wasn’t enough. Today, the same kind of laser focus is needed on climate change. The problem is a lot more complicated than strategic arms control, of course — there are many more relevant countries, not just two dueling superpowers, and the problem of heat-trapping emissions is deeply embedded in the modern industrial economy. Cutting emissions to nearly zero isn’t merely an activity, like redirecting the purchase of armaments, that governments can control directly. But the point remains: Success requires less moralizing and more strategizing. Moralizing about climate has led to bold goals, like limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels — a stretch target written into the Paris Agreement on climate change. The problem is that such goals […]

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