Carbon Tax Failure: NOT Enough
There is a failure of the press to cover urgency of carbon tax. Carbon should not flow unpriced into the atmosphere, any more than you should be allowed to toss your garbage in the street. It makes no sense that the fossil fuel industry is allowed to put out their waste for free, using the atmosphere as an open sewer.
Nearly all of those decisions share a common, crucial element: they are shaped, by the relative prices of available energy choices. The only way to get enough change is to send a price signal so that everyone from investors to car buyers will change their behavior automatically: a kind of perpetual motion machine.
A straightforward plan is simply to tax carbon directly. Canada has introduced the gradual approach of a $10/ton of carbon emissions to finally get the ball rolling, while some of the provinces have elected to increase this tax to $30/ton. In the meantime, Exxon has been planning for $50 a ton to make sure it won’t put a crimp in their business.
Yes, carbon tax is inevitable but one thing stands in the way: PRICE POINT. If we want to move the needle, we have to move the market. We need a top down message. A steadily rising tax on fossil fuels will send a strong price signal. A proposed carbon tax pending in the New York state legislature (A.B. 8372: proposes to increase the tax gradually from $35 to $185 per ton.)
Is that the only thing that needs to be done?
To keep the pressure on carbon emissions, a “fee-and-dividend” approach sets a price on carbon, and then rebates all the revenue straight to citizens, perhaps even sending them a monthly check. Yes, the price we pay at the pump goes up but the check covers the increased cost. It’s called revenue neutrality.
It’s one arrow in a quiver full of other arrows we’re going to need. As we see temperatures shattering new records every month, we need to do everything: not just a price on carbon, but dramatic subsidies for renewables to speed their spread.
We know what to do, but building a will to do it seems like an insuperable obstacle.
The definition of quixotic: foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals especially marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action. Our rash ideas are bringing us to the opposite direction with no change in sight.
The clock ticks and each month we lose ground and face a warmer future and a bigger challenge to reign in green house gas effects on our life support on this planet. Building such an effort requires an international cooperation far beyond anything accomplished thus far, with an effort comparable to, or greater than, World War II.
Carbon cycle for the 1990’s: in billions of tons of CO2
Our CO2 emission debt is still in the RED. This does not even consider the mounting debt load that has already accumulated in the global carbon cycle, as we witness temperatures shattering new records every month.
Fossil fuels emit only 3% of total CO2 emissions. 95% comes from rotting vegetation. The dead wood and weeds can’t simply be stored in air tight underground. Burying a biomass will eventually result is methane, which is 23 times more harmful to the climate: it will inevitably attract termites which would mess up the project by puncturing holes in the airtight burial chambers.
There is an easier solution. If you heat this wood properly, the resulting by product is charcoal. Charcoal applied to agricultural land increases the fertility of the soil. This has been used in the past by Indians in the pre-Columbian Amazon basin.
To help solve the problem, we must add a human touch: each province or state must adopt an underdeveloped country in the tropics where part of their funds will be used to create biochar and plant fruit and nut trees. This carbon absorption can address the 5 billion tons of CO2 that is currently problematic. In addition, we have to deal with the glut of CO2 that have been already been charged to the world’s carbon credit card which has had no spending limit. We have already crossed into dangerous carbon territory and that territory must be retaken.
A SENSE OF URGENCY
The world is on track to experience an average increase in air temperature of four to six degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, according to recent analysis by the International Energy Agency. The problem is that urgency is not felt by many people.
If your neighbor was making bombs that you knew were going to end up dropped on your children, would you just want to protect one side of the street? What is the incentive for each state or province to deal with the real problem on both sides of the street? Funds must be invested across the street outside of the state or province. Luckily, this necessary fund is not onerous.
Like the naive passengers on board an ocean liner, who lean carelessly over the rail as their ship drifts into an iceberg, most of us are oblivious to the magnitude of the impending disaster. The separation closes too slowly for us to appreciate the force of the coming crunch.
If you look at the core of any social movement there are highly committed people who are ready to take risks – usually grassroots grit of students. They are saying we’re not going to cooperate until you address this need. They want investors to rethink their investment priorities: calling for divestment from fossil fuel companies. Yet, that is the second arrow in the quiver of solutions.
Luckily students today weigh environmental concerns more that economic concerns like prices and jobs. Student activism is exactly what we need, yet look at the Occupy Wall Street as a cautionary example of a movement that had some impact on the national conversation, but then faded for lack of clear objectives. Instead of a “stop things” movement, we must make proactive positive investments. We have to interact with 6 billion people—most of them live on the other side of the street.
|Dear student: Wouldn’t you look back and shake your head at the feeble attempts at mitigation by the present age, the head-in-the-sand policies that assumed addressing the problem could be put off for another day and that the future would be clever enough and rich enough to take care of itself?
How much of the good life in the present are we willing to forgo to provide for our children and grandchildren?
Simply doing nothing is looking increasingly unreasonable. How to make the sense of urgency immediately felt is one of the biggest challenges of this climate movement.
As 194 nations hammer out a climate change agreement in Doha, the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund (MDG-F) is showing how grassroots, community-led responses are already helping countries build resilience to climate change’s impacts. The MDG-F is supporting 130 joint programmes in 50 countries in the area of environment and climate change with an allocation of US$900 million where only 10% ($90 million)of the funds were allocated to environmental and climate change: http://www.mdgfund.org/page/ourprogrammes Where is the URGENCY?
Our Biochar and Tree Planting Project actually address most of the allocation of funds as listed above: Living Water MicroFinance Inc. provides Micro Finance to women farmers and their family assists Gender Equality and Youth Employment.
Our weekly training of women farmers in teams of five increases Culture and Development. We can stretch this thinking to include Peace, simply because both people on both sides of the street will end up being less poor, which will lead to Less Conflict.
Let us examine the 80% of allocated funds ($720 million of $900 million) of the world to other than Africa. Does this breakdown address the highest need to deal with Global Warming? It would appear that all these agencies are off the mark to “helping countries build Resilience to climate change’s impacts.“ Building this kind of Resilience is like locking the stable door after the horse has been stolen.
What comes first? An Emission absorption solution or manufacturing of face masks for everyone. The situation cannot be changed by improving security after a major theft. We must deal with the Security Problem first! The door (Our world as we know it) cannot be vulnerable to attack.
To correct the problem we must fix the barn door (Emission absorption Solution) or harness the horse (Reduce Emissions). Now we really must catch the horse (Solve the emission problem), but very few people (the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund (MDG-F) are searching for the horse. This includes all of the participants starting from the largest: UNDP, UNICEF, FAO, UNESCO, ILO, UNFPA, WFP, UNIDO, UNWOMEN, PAHO/WHO and IOM.
In the meantime, our governments are simply thinking about taxing some polluters a little and readjusting the tax to keep it neutral. Our Governments are only talking to locksmiths. In other words, they are not addressing the problem at all. (Remember: the horse has already bolted).