Decarbonising the energy supply of the world without risking creating the mother of all economic depressions is probably going to be waaay harder than most think. It isn't just a matter of widely deploying electric vehicles, insulation and solar panels. Most of the carbon footprint that people create, particularly in the richer nations of the world, is caused not by what you drive or how you power your life but by the fossil fuels used to extract, transport and make the materials, goods and services everybody uses. Most of this happens 'offshore' in countries far away and does not appear on the usual 'carbon emissions per country' figures you might have seen.
Weaning our personal energy use off fossil fuelled energy is relatively easy to do - it's the low hanging fruit, that most suggestions we see from the public would address that would happen first. It won' be enough - not nearly enough. To fundamentally solve the problem requires making the use of fossil fuelled energy increasingly financially unattractive. In market economies, most personal and business decisions are driven by prices, and wherever a fossil fuel is the cheapest source, and not forbidden, it will continue to be used - only draconian legislation could stop that and I think far too many people, in particular activists such as E.R., are far too optimistic in believing that if only 'the people knew the truth' they would vote for such far reaching legislation. Humans just aren't like that. That's why E.R et al use scaremongering tactics with their exaggeration of the science and their using over the top rhetoric in an attempt to scare the people into thinking as they do and jumping for the 'solutions' they want to see.
There is a relatively simple yet incredibly efficient solution which would work at all scales without needing heavy-handed legislation and/or severe punishments. It would also have the double whammy effect of stimulating the economy whilst simultaneously helping 'the poor'.
It's a form of carbon tax, but not the cap and trade type, or a simple VAT/GST like percentage added on. Those systems have their problems and would be very strongly resisted by many.
This magic system is known as 'carbon fee and dividend' and, apart from being hailed by many top economists as a very workable system, it also has several other benefits beyond just providing a powerful mechanism steering the world away from fossil fuels and towards low/neutral/negative carbon technologies. Introduce the system and, faster than one would believe possible, via the billions of consumer choices made every day, the economy would be propelled on to a sustainable footing globally.
It can be introduced unilaterally without disadvantaging the pioneers. Countries that did not introduce the system would be put at an economic disadvantage, as their exports would be made relatively more expensive compared with those countries who had adopted the system. James Hansen, the climate scientist who first alerted the US Congress to the threat of climate change, from human caused global warming, in 1988 regards it as the most workable solution. Here's a basic introduction, which is quite clearly written.
The biggest perceived barrier to a conventional carbon tax is the (often justified) fear of people that any tax revenues raised would just disappear into the government's coffers and never be seen again and that it would also put up the cost of living for most. Americans in particular tend to reach for their guns to stop more taxation being introduced. No-one likes paying taxes, so how can this idea appeal to the vast majority of the voting public, as opposed to the green groups and their sympathisers?
The answer is actually simple and profound at the same time.
There are obviously different ways that the proceeds from a carbon tax could be managed so they don't simply disappear into the black hole of government. Here's the secret of the best way: all revenues collected are given right back, equally divided up, to all the people – every dollar or pound taken in tax is returned to people’s pockets.
This 'carbon fee and dividend' (CF&D) system imposes a carbon fee on energy, materials, products and services that have used greenhouse gas generating fossil fuel energy in their mining, extraction, refining, transport and manufacturing. If collected at the 'point of entry' into a nation/jurisdiction this would also send a strong 'market signal' for goods/energy from overseas by addressing 'Scope 3' emissions which, for an island such as Jersey (which has already largely decarbonised its electricity supplies) are a very significant, perhaps the most important, part of Jersey's overall excess greenhouse gas impact on the climate
The effect of such a fee would be to make 'good' environmental products and practices cheaper than climate unfriendly ones. People who chose to continue with a heavy carbon footprint lifestyle would pay out more than they got back. Those who changed their ways to avoid carbon heavy goods and services would actually receive net income - this is the economy stimulating aspect I mentioned before.
The forthcoming G7 summit just down the road from my new home in Cornwall https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-55678031 will undoubtedly be considering the merits of the CF&D to get the world out of the seemingly intractable mess it currently is in.
It might even be the first highly popular tax!
Why the contribution is important
Too many do not understand the scale of the problems that need addressing, nor the immense difficulties in engineering suitably effective reductions in greenhouse gases in the timeframe delineated by the science. In particular, the immense political and economic risks involved in just mandating that, for example, the world should ban the use of fossil fuels ASAP are virtually unrealised yet by the majority of the public. This posts shows a different way supported by economost of both the left and right not to mention top climate scientists. Sometimes, 'too good to be true' happens.
by NickPalmer on February 05, 2021 at 06:12PM