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It looks like you've messed up the Oreskes link Brad. A suitable link is this one (I've linked to the Guardian's version of the news story, which is a bit more comprehensive than the Slashdot article):
I don't think you need to be a future historian to see how it is all going wrong for the pro-AGW side in terms of changing us to a low carbon world. In my view, it's not so much the "carbon combustion complex" (to use Oreskes' phrase) that is stopping things from changing, it's actually environmentalists like Oreskes.
To see what I mean, consider the graph given in a WUWT blog post called "Despite the hype, ‘carbon-free’ energy sources aren’t gaining traction globally" from a few months ago.
According to the graph, the global percentage of "carbon-free" energy sources increased from 6% in 1965 to about 13% in 1993, but from 1993 onwards the graph has flatlined at about 13%. The Oreskes expanation would be of course that this is all the work of the insidious "carbon combustion complex". My explanation would be that the Green movement, including its "Green capitalist" faction, became strongly influential on global energy policy after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, and the focus has switched to wind and solar power as the preferred carbon-free energy sources, which are nowhere near as good at displacing fossil fuel from the energy mix as nuclear and hydroelectric power, which enjoyed a more favourable status up to 1992.
Following on from my previous post, I just noticed a more informative version of the 'progress in decarbonisation' graph after a visit to Bishop Hill's blog, where he links to a post on Euan Mearns' blog:
This version of the graph gives the breakdown of contributions of nuclear, hydroelectric and the Green-favoured renewables (mainly wind and solar) to the overall graph. Nuclear and hydroelectric are on the wane as we go into the 21st century with only the favoured wind and solar contribution increasing steadily. If it wasn't for the fact that some parts of the world, which until recently included Japan, have shown a bit more resistance to environmentalism than the West, the progress in decarbonisation would probably be going backwards rather than coming to the virtual standstill it has done for the last twenty years.
Mearns also quotes a cost for the current effort in installing wind and solar power as being $1.7 trillion (US trillions).
So I suppose in regard to the question posed by Oreskes "Why didn't they act?", the answer might be that they let the Greenies get in control of the global decarbonisation effort.