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Why I'm fed up with the global warming debate

It goes on and on without resolution. But now there's new hope that real change could happen. I hope we're not about to get let down again.

I've had it. Watching years of endless debate over global warming play out without a final denouement, why not face the hard truth that we're going about it all wrong? Both sides invariably trot out reams of competing statistics or quote scientific tomes to support their positions in a conversation that goes stale fast.

But I've got a better idea. If you could sit down with a big global warming skeptic like United States Sen. James Inhofe, or even with President Bush, forget the "woe is us routine." Instead, why not appeal to their capitalist greed--and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense. You don't have to believe in global warming to agree that fossil fuel emissions aren't doing any good for the air we breathe. But the sharp disagreements flare up when the topic turns programmatic. That is, how do you go about the cleanup without wrecking the economy? Good question, but unless the smart money is wrong, the answer will make fortunes for a lot of people.

EDF President Fred Krupp Environmental Defense Fund

While the pace of investment in Web 2.0 start-ups is waning, clean tech is booming. Venture capitalists sank more than $3 billion into the sector in 2007, and they'll break that record this year.

The environmental movement got hip to that idea awhile ago, making the right calculation that appealing to business' self-interest would pay dividends later on. Apropos, I was reminiscing on Friday with Fred Krupp, who heads the Environmental Defense Fund. Time was when the EDF's informal motto was, "Sue the bastards." But Krupp, who joined EDF in 1984, has become a big proponent of working with business on this issue.

Call it constructive engagement, if you will, but he's making progress even though there remains much skepticism among business interests. But in the last year, a number of heavy-hitter CEOs have made strong statements about climate change, including Jeff Immelt from General Electric, Rick Wagoner at General Motors, and Jim Rogers at Duke Energy. We're not exactly talking about Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin here. These are members of the U.S. corporate aristocracy, and if these boys are singing a new tune, change is in the air. Check out the United States Climate Action Partnership, which is an alliance between big-time companies and climate and environmental groups teaming up to support a market-driven approach to climate protection. At the same time, there's a pending bill in Congress, S. 2191, better known as America's Climate Security Act, designed to help reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

I wouldn't exaggerate the swing of the political pendulum--there's still a lot of resistance--but as the Bush administration finishes out its term, there's suddenly more movement on this front than at any time in the last eight years. I'll be publishing a Q&A on Saturday with Krupp where he talks in more detail about technology's likely role. In the meantime, here's the nagging question I still can't answer: Is this issue so bound up with interest-group politics that hopes for a national movement are just a pipe dream? The debate seemingly goes on and on without resolution. Now that there's new hope for real change just over the horizon, I hope we're not about to get let down again.

Now it's your turn to weigh in.