President Biden is in Glasgow, Scotland, this week trying to inspire the world to address climate change. This follows the Group of 20 countries summit, also billed as an opportunity for major economies to agree on climate-mitigating measures, that ultimately resolved with a weak-sauce voluntary (non-)commitment on coal. Biden blamed the result on a handful of holdouts.

“I think you’re going to see we’ve made significant progress and more has to be done,” Biden said Sunday. “But it’s going to require us to continue to focus on what China is not doing, what Russia is not doing and what Saudi Arabia is not doing.”

But as bad as those countries have been, remember also what the United States is not doing.

For months, Biden and Democratic lawmakers have been trying, and failing, to shepherd a climate deal through Congress. It’s been a Democrat-only endeavor because most Republican voters have decided climate change either isn’t real or not worth addressing.

Even the GOP leaders who claim to care about the planet’s future essentially argue that human ingenuity alone will solve the problem and that big government incentives aren’t needed to speed things along. To be fair, it is true that technological progress (in wind and solar, for example) has been faster than predicted. But it’s high risk to assume that, absent further government prodding, the remaining innovations will be developed and deployed before global temperatures reach the point of no return.

Meanwhile Democrats are squabbling among themselves.

The best climate tool available would be a carbon tax. That would harness market forces to nudge businesses and consumers away from carbon-intensive technologies. It would simultaneously incentivize investors and entrepreneurs to develop new, lower- or zero-carbon alternatives, since they know customers will demand them.

Follow Catherine Rampell‘s opinionsFollow

In other words, a carbon tax would supercharge that human ingenuity that Republicans rightly praise.

A carbon tax-and-dividend scheme, in which the tax revenue would be rebated back to Americans, has already been endorsed by 3,600 U.S. economists. Among the luminaries on board are three of Biden’s top economic officials: Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, Council of Economic Advisers Chair Cecilia Rouse and CEA member Heather Boushey. The Business Roundtable and even the American Petroleum Institute also support carbon taxes.

But Biden effectively shot this strategy down when he (foolishly) pledged not to raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000.

So Democrats looked at second- and third-best options, which have now also been ruled out — mostly due to objections from Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who represents a coal-country state. Democrats have even wobbled on plans to penalize oil and gas operators that leak methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas.

The key problem: American politicians want to tackle climate change only through carrots, not sticks. No measure can be (or can be perceived as) a “sacrifice” for anyone. For this approach to work, though, the carrots must be much more generous.

“For a negative externality like climate, carrots are always going to be more expensive than sticks,” says Roberton Williams III, a University of Maryland environmental economist. “And that cost difference gets bigger the more you want to cut emissions. So if you want deep emissions cuts, and you only want to use carrots, it gets really expensive.”

Unfortunately, lawmakers are also unwilling to spend more money. Instead, they have slimmed down their climate provisions and packed the bill with a hodgepodge of subsidies to buy solar panels, manufacture wind turbines and the like. These provisions would be helpful, but they are unlikely to be sufficient. Especially since some set to pocket the subsidies would have invested in clean energy anyway.

Worse, there’s no guarantee that Democrats can get even this highly diluted package through.

No country has a great excuse for failing to address the climate emergency. But the United States has among the weakest and fewest excuses. We are both richer and higher-polluting than nearly every other country attending the ongoing climate summit. We don’t have to worry whether eliminating the dirtiest energy might make us more reliant on a hostile neighbor or jeopardize our country’s path out of poverty. Our aversion to accelerating the phaseout of coal is instead about the supposedly scary optics of hastening the inevitable displacement of 42,000 coal miners. (For context: That’s less than half the number of people who work at Macy’s.)

Unlike a developing country such as India, where large swaths of the population don’t have reliable access to electricity, we’ve met our country’s basic energy needs. We just need to change the mix of energy. And we are rich enough that we can afford to be choosy. That is: We can afford to “buy off” any losers, real or perceived, from the transition.

Yet, embarrassingly, we remain unwilling to do so, even as we scold others.