Sure, its a highly complex problem, with lots of moving parts, and there is no complete and total solution. But there is a way out.
Climate change is caused by rising CO2 levels and CO2 levels are driven by burning fossil fuels. The solution is to burn less coal, oil and gas. Period.
But how to do this? Everybody has lots of selfish reasons not to, so its not likely to happen anytime soon; but if we can agree on it, there is only one
way to do it: Tax the shit out of burning hydrocarbons. As the Capitalists keep telling us, we need to harness the power of the market to make coal, oil and gas less profitable, and the only way to do that is to hit the profits. This will discourage use, encourage conservation, and inspire innovation and energy alternatives. It will also allow us to reduce all our other taxes as well as provide capital for investment in renewables, research and conservation.
There are other advantages to a carbon tax; it is easy to implement and regulate. If it is too high and undesirable economic consequences result, we can quickly relax it with a stroke of a pen. If the economy adjusts to it without too much trouble another stroke of the pen can boost it to a higher and even more effective level. We can supplement the system by rewarding other positive actions, like developing alternate energy sources or massive reforestation projects, or adding additional taxes on industrial and agricultural activities that indirectly produce excess CO2, like raising cattle or cutting down forests. But if we burn less Carbon and other hydrocarbons, we produce less carbon dioxide. And the only way market forces will help us is if we make burning carbon less profitable. And the only way to do that is tax the shit out of it. Its really that simple.
Of course, although it may be relatively easy for any one nation to do this, getting ALL nations to do this (or even a substantial number of the major ones) is something else again. If several of the major industrial nations instituted a major carbon tax and even if it was partially successful at solving the problem, there is still no guarantee ALL, or even all major industrial nations, will follow through. In fact, they will have every incentive to cheat because their economies will flourish at the expense of those who are more responsible. This will become a diplomatic problem, not a technical or economic one.
But for the time being, the price of fossil fuel is NOT determined by what it costs to locate and develop it, and it is NOT determined by the so-called Law of Supply and Demand. It is set by a formula that balances production against consumption in such a way that profit is maximized (OPEC). We don’t have a “free market” in fossil fuel. We never did.
And I don’t see a way out of that. But it is still possible. We had nuclear weapons treaties that were similar in concept, and we haven’t had an atomic war yet, so it is possible.