Like any tough issue, how you frame the problem can greatly shape the debate. That's what is happening on the anthropogenic global warming issue.
At first it was framed as a scam perpetrated by corrupt scientists exploiting fear to rake in government grants. Then, year after year passed while those with an enormous financial interest in debunking the "junk science" failed to come up with any peer-reviewed science to back their claims. It should have been a piece of cake with hundreds of billions of dollars hanging in the fossil fuel industries balance. When they failed miserably they fell back on the "denial industry", hiring the same outfits that R.J. Reynolds once used with some success to persuade the gullible that there was no link between cigarettes and cancer.
Still, the denial industry has earned its pay by feeding enough skeptics what they wanted to eat. In doing that, they put back any serious effort to curb carbon emissions by several years. Not a total victory for Big Oil and Big Coal but a very handsome return on their investment anyway.
So with the "rearguard" crumbling, the next line of defence is to frame AGW as an economic issue. This is even better for the fossil fuel industry because it gives rise to xenophobic stalemate. Entire nations engage in finger-pointing rhetoric to dodge having to actually slash emissions. There are plenty of moral arguments to go around and, the best thing, they're on significantly differing footings. Our side, the dirtiest and most advantaged, conceal the fact of our gluttonous consumption by recognizing only total emissions. Their side, the less advantaged and vastly more populous, recognize per-capita emissions. On a per capita basis, China puts out a small fraction of our GHG emissions. India? Don't even go there. Both sides have moral justifications that they can use to hide behind and they're doing it.
What everyone seems willing to go to any lengths to avoid is the third way that the global warming issue can be framed. It's the one they fear most and make almost any effort to avoid mentioning. It's the issue that frames anthropogenic global warming as an instrument of suffering, displacement, even death on massive scales suffered not by those who sit back and argue over who has to go first but by the very people who have contributed almost nothing to atmospheric carbon levels.
Do you think these people have the luxury of caring which nations should first cut their greenhouse gas emissions or how to accommodate sustainable economic growth among the developed world or whether emissions should be assessed on a national or a per capita basis?
Once you frame global warming in the context of its true victims, all the moral and economic justifications become empty pretence. In the context of those who suffer and will continue to suffer more and more from our excess, the debate becomes relatively simple: how do we do the right thing by these people; how do we cut greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible as quickly as possible; how do we restore their right to a homeland and peace and even life itself?
There are times when you have to put aside your arsenal of justifications and stand up and do the right thing. Why are we so afraid of that?