International negotiations on global-warming accords continue to be an expensive exercise in pointlessness, while the leading anti-greenhouse-gas legislation in the United States Senate, shepherded by John Kerry of Massachusetts, is said to be so lengthy it may make the recent health-care bill seem like a Post-It note. Release of Kerry’s proposal was delayed Tuesday when its sole Republican cosponsor, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, developed cold feet. Some Senate action on the proposal is expected this spring.

Ideally, both the international negotiations and the Kerry bill will collapse under the weight of their own complexity. That would be ideal if you favor progress against greenhouse gases! The threat of artificially triggered climate change is all too real: see more on that below. But new thinking – not more top-down bureaucracy – is the best hope to reduce greenhouse gas accumulation.

Both the international proposals, and Kerry’s bill, seek to create ultra-elaborate regulatory regimes that would guarantee cushy jobs for bureaucrats and big paydays for lobbyists, but not necessarily much reform. Both reflect what many hate about government – prescriptive top-down regulation combined with ample opportunities for insiders to direct giveaways to themselves. Among Washington insiders, especially the think-tank set, there’s a sense of delight that a mega-elaborate greenhouse-gas regulatory hierarchy is coming. Thousands of lobbying pressure-points will be created, while some gigantic Department of Atmospheric Administration will result, top heavy with senior-grade functionaries who spend their days infighting about whose signature goes on memos. Elites in Washington and Brussels surely will benefit from the complex approach to greenhouse regulation. Will anybody else?

First the international situation. At the Rio global-warming summit in 1992, heads of state made symbolic nonbinding commitments about greenhouse reduction while praising themselves, then pledged to serious action sometime soon. At the Copenhagen global-warming summit in 2009, heads of state made symbolic nonbinding commitments about greenhouse reduction while praising themselves, then pledged to serious action sometime soon. Insert another city name and future year, and the sentence will read the same.

Two decades of international negotiations on greenhouse gases have led to almost nothing of substance, beyond some European Union trial programs. The only concrete achievement is an annual Conference of Parties, via which highly paid delegates fly in jets burning fossil fuels, and ride in low-mileage limousines, to meet in luxurious circumstances and demand that someone else conserve resources. Milan, Bali, Copenhagen – the 2010 Conference of Parties will be held in Cancun. Why aren’t these meetings in Chengdu or Fargo? International elites need to be in resort locations to think about why average people’s use of fossil fuel must be restricted!