Thanks for this article Jessica, and for moderating a great discussion thread.
At its core, the ferver to abate climate change is driven by economic self-interest. From an economic point of view, the tepid response to global warming goes right to the basic economic assumption of rational actors. That the world is on its current warming course can be considered the greatest market failure in the history (e.g., Nicholas Stern).
From my point of view, the market failure is due to inefficient flow of information. Technicians like scientists and actuaries sound the alarm for strong action against climate change, but market and political systems do not respond. Well intentioned environmentaists turn up the volume on the alarm, but volume is only part of the problem -- to your point, environmentalists haven't achieved the desired response. The technicians will keep sounding the alarm and the environmentalist will keep turning up the volume until markets and political systems respond.
The convergence of alarm and response is starting to acclerate. There are now a growing number of leaders who can speak to the topic of climate change without sacrificing their political power and careers. They are leading on the grounds that mitigation of climate change *IS* in the interest of citizens and businesses. With concerted effort, the upcoming National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee report will be the golden spike of this convergence in the United States, driving serious response to climate change.
PS - Your piece brought to mind for me Anna Liedreiter's post, "The Only Way Forward", and I thought other readers might also want to consider Anna's post.