What are we waiting for?

Global warming represents a serious threat to humanity and needs to be limited to below +2.0 °C!

The statement above was agreed upon by representatives from 195 nations at the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris in 2015 and is not even controversial. Manmade global warming exists and needs to be stopped! The only question is how?.

Unfortunately, many politicians and business leaders still suffer from the delusion that new technology – a green energy revolution – will automatically solve the problem. This is wrong for at least two reasons. First, our problem is not that renewable energy is too expensive but that fossil fuel is too cheap. Since new technology is not going to make coal, oil, and gas more expensive, a political solution is required. Second, continuing with business as usual while hoping for new technologies is like playing Russian roulette with the future of humanity: if the energy revolution does not happen fast enough, we will all be dead.

Fortunately, there exists a minimally invasive approach which would allow us to stop global warming while reducing poverty and improving the quality of life of most people. It consists of introducing a price on carbon dioxide emissions based on the following principles:

  1. All producers of fossil fuel pay a fee proportional to the amount they produce (in carbon or CO2 equivalent) to a global fund.
  2. The money from this fund is distributed equally among the world’s nations in direct proportion to the size of their populations. Every human being is entitled to the same amount.
  3. The fee will automatically increase by 20% annually until global emissions get below the levels recommended by the IPCC for A +2°C world.

The result would be a global increase in the price of fossil fuel, with the extra money going to governments rather than to big corporations. These governments would be free to use the money as they see fit, but would have a strong incentive to use part of it for investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Finally, the automatic yearly increase of the fee would rapidly make fossil fuel untenable as a source of energy.

The GISEco-plan is fair and simple. Companies and individuals using a lot of fossil fuel would be compensating the rest of us for the damage they do to the environment. Since the plan only involves a small number of fossil fuel companies and the national governments of the world, it would be easy to implement. Finally, this plan is compatible with all other national initiatives, such as subsidies for renewable energy, divestment, and emission trading. A global minimum price on carbon dioxide pollution would simply make these initiatives more effective and more urgent.

When it comes to climate change, we are rapidly running out of time. If we continue with business as usual for another 10 years, we will essentially have destroyed all hope of limiting global warming to less than +2 °C. In order to avoid disastrous climate change, the global emissions of CO2 will have to start decreasing immediately, by at least 5% per year. If we manage this, we will have plenty of time to discuss and solve the other problems of modern society. If we fail, there will be little left to discuss. It is a great testament to the role of money in politics that we manage to get the priorities completely wrong. Global warming is a threat to the future of humanity, whereas lack of economic growth is not. The focus should therefore be to lower the emissions of greenhouse gases.  The “economic cost” of doing so is actually not even a relevant parameter; you do not negotiate water rates when your house is on fire.

We hope that GISEco can serve as an inspiration and rallying point for business leaders, politicians, and environmentalists worldwide. Obviously, it is not enough to tell politicians and business leaders that things need to change, we also have to tell them how. Please get in touch with us if you like the GISEco-idea and would like to help spreading the word.