A Thermostat for the Earth

It is absolutely clear, both from climate models and observations, that the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is changing the climate of the Earth. The average surface temperature of the Earth has increased by 0.8 °C during the last 100 years. It will increase by another 3 °C during the next 80 years, leading to a rise in the sea level by an additional 0.5 to 1 meter. We will thus expose our children to climate change more rapid than any previous generation in human history has had to endure.

In spite of this, many people are still opposed to meaningful action against global change. These fossil fuel advocates do not deny the facts above but rather argue that it would be more expensive to prevent climate change than to live with the consequences. We believe this argument to be both dishonest and dangerous. In order to make such a claim, one has to be able to compare the cost of preventing global warming to the cost of climate-related damage to society. Unfortunately, neither climate models nor economic models are good enough to make this comparison. What is clear, however, is that the further we move away from the pre-industrial climate, the more difficult it will be make accurate prediction. Farmers, hunters, and fishermen of the past did not have use advanced climate model to plan their work, as they could rely on experience and traditions. Future generations will not have this luxury.

Luckily, lack of information does not prevent us from taking action. It only means that our response to the threat of global warming needs to be flexible and adaptive. The effect of a Global Sustainability Fee (or GSF) as proposed by GISEco would be similar to introducing a thermostat for controlling the temperature of a building. It is difficult to predict the required heating of a building ahead of time. It is also not necessary, as we can us a simple thermostat to make sure that the heating system delivers the amount of heat required to reach the desired temperature. Likewise, it is very difficult to predict what levels of CO2 emissions are acceptable to both the economy and the environment. By introducing a slowly increasing GSF, it will be easy to find out. Thus, even fossil fuel advocates should be in favor of a GSF to provide the information required for a serious discussion on the costs of global warming and renewable energy.

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