What the hell went wrong? For months now, environmentalists have been asking themselves that question, and it’s easy to see why. After Barack Obama vaulted into the White House in 2008, it really did look like the United States was, at long last, going to do something about global warming. Scientists were united on the causes and perils of climate change. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth had stoked public concern. Green groups in D.C. had rallied around a consensus solution—a cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions—and had garnered support from a few major companies like BP and Duke Energy. Both Obama and his opponent, John McCain, were on board. And, so, environmental advocates prepared a frontal assault on Congress. May as well order the victory confetti, right?…

Nisbet’s report is a fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism over the past few years, and he raises a lot of probing questions. But, reading through it, I started to wonder if there was another option worth considering. Maybe none of the theories about what went wrong are correct. It’s quite possible that climate activists basically did a competent job —after all, they did get a big, complicated bill to the 20-yard-line in a legislative body that rarely passes big, complicated bills—and they just got unlucky. After all, if John McCain hadn’t thrown a tantrum and changed his mind about the merits of tackling global warming, cap-and-trade very well could have passed and those inside-the-Beltway greens would now look like geniuses. Maybe there’s such a thing as too much clever second-guessing. Sure, environmentalists will have to adapt to changing circumstances —right now, the focus is on protecting the EPA’s Clean Air Act authority—but does climate activism really need to be completely renovated? Or does it just need to wait for the right moment to come along? (Granted, greens better hope that moment arrives before the planet heats up too much.)