The scope and scale of climate change is extraordinary. The benefits and costs of climate change interventions are truly global, and they have the potential to affect everyone living today. In order to understand the benefits of action on climate change, we need to understand the consequences of doing nothing. As such, it’s imperative that we think about interconnectivity. If climate change will lead to violence, instability, displacement, and so on, the damages from climate change will be greater than we might initially suspect.
Within countries, effective and cost-effective policy will almost surely require the coordination that comes with federal oversight. As a practical matter, local and state governments acting unilaterally will have limited impacts on climate change. Nevertheless, state and local governments can serve as laboratories for exploring policy successes and failures. State and local governments can develop best practices for bringing together the private sector, NGOs, and public agencies. State and local governments can also develop relationships that can work across borders, boundaries, and ideologies. In short, state and local governments can be innovators and leaders. But I don’t expect them to have the final word on effective and efficient climate change policy.
Along those same lines, since the scale of climate change is global, appropriate solutions will need to be global in the long run. Effective public policy will eventually require cooperation between the global North and the global South.