Our Homo sapiens reality is that global warming, if it continues at the current rate, could trigger a sixth planetary extinction. Unlike past extinctions, this one will not be brought on by a random meteorite/asteroid strike or a convulsive planetary volcanic eruption. It will be self-inflicted; the result of Biosphere degradation because of our use of fossil fuels. CO2 in the planet’s Biosphere is increasing exponentially and as a result, permafrost in the Arctic is warming. Excessive amounts of Arctic methane release have begun and will continue. Methane is much more potent as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The combination could lead to temperatures similar to those of the Permian-Triassic.
All past CO2 Treaties Have Failed
Here is the multinational political reality: From the meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 to the Paris Accord in 2015 to the last 2019 meeting all carbon reduction has been a failure. CO2 emissions continue to climb. Public response to the failure has been mixed and largely ineffective.
Survival Homo sapiens
Only by the establishment of a new multinational Institution formed for the purpose of orchestrating a world-wide increase in the price of carbon from its first moment of entry into the system through to its becoming a part of all derivative goods and services can this human tragedy be avoided. Board Members must be of the stature and critical thinking skills of today’s Nobel Prize winners and UN Secretary Generals, skills that can put in place measures over a 10/15 year period that will eliminate our carbon dependency. And they must be given powers under its authority well beyond those of existing global institutions today; powers of international law and enforcement.
The COP meetings were a definitional starter for this call. They showed a unity of common purpose among many world leaders. But they also showed the lack of enforcement and the immediate need for a new multinational institution able to enforce firm and binding commitments.
There needs to be strong world leadership. Within the next 12 months a multinational body as here described needs to come together to outline a plan for the orchestration of a graduated increase in the price of carbon world-wide.
Market Based Approach
Reduction in CO2 can be accomplished by a market based approach. National and international markets can serve as disciplinarian. They would force alternative forms of energy to be brought into the system up and down the production/consumption line. It can be achieved by Nations pricing in gradual increases in carbon beginning at its source. This would force higher prices of all derivative goods and services to be passed on internally and externally. Non-carbon derivative forms of energy would then be given an incentive to become increasingly competitive. They eventually would replace carbon. Many end products that are solely reliant on the burning of large amounts of carbon would be eliminated from the system by way of price appreciation.
There are far reaching social implications. Present consumers of carbon energy dependent goods and services will have to switch over to non carbon goods and services. Carbon producers will be forced out of the market. Carbon reliant socio/economic activities too will be forced out of the market. Price will force change.
This approach is congruent within the currently established framework of existing capital market systems both within nations and internationally.
This raises many questions. How much time do we have? How much fossil fuel energy will be needed for the conversion? Will that amount of fossil fuel energy requirement in itself put us over the CO2/CH4 Arctic feedback loop edge? Will industries such as air, automobiles, trucking, ocean shipping and metals now so reliant on fossil fuels be able to make the transition; and if so, what can be the alternative they employ? How will highly carbon consumptive basic industries such as concrete and steel make the transition? How will the citizens country by country, region by region, respond to such a state of economic disruption and reorganization?
And then there is the biggest obstacle, a major hurdle we have had addressing the climate issue. It lies at the heart of the failure to deal with climate change. It is called “free-riding” by countries that take advantage of the lack of multilateral discipline.
Negative Externality Tax
For producers of oil, gas and coal a tax (Negative Externality Tax – let’s call it NET) will be levied at the points of national extraction based on extraction cost. That national tax will bring the price up to an internationally agreed carbon equivalent tax figure. It will be increased year by year over a fifteen year period. It will therefore become integral to the pricing of all domestic goods and services in the producing country and the export pricing of those goods and services.
That carbon tax figure would be increased year by year based on a graduated 15 year price increase. Here is an example for equivalent grade diesel: Given today’s $10 $20 $30 cost the point of entry into the system, the NET would bring the cost up to say $70 per barrel at its source of extraction and then internationally when exported. Then an increasing NET would raise the cost incrementally over a 15 year period to $ 250 per barrel – or whatever end price brings about global carbon emissions down to an ecologically acceptable level.
In the case above; revenue from the domestic tax will first be the difference between the internal extraction/production cost and $70, then year by year the increasing formulaic amount. That revenue will be retained by the producing nation where it can be used for needed internal investment and social adjustments arising from higher prices for carbon consumptive consumer and industrial products. It can also be used to encourage non carbon activities and to develop non carbon sources of energy.
This will be the first of other calls for change away from our singular tribal nationalism and toward a world-wide human universalism leading to a framework for a universal societal cooperative order. That framework must consist of mutually coordinated decision networks. The grand strategy we now have of decentralism and incrementalism will not suffice.
Countries That Refuse to Comply
For those carbon producing countries that refuse to comply, each and every export to a compliant country will be evaluated by the compliant as to the carbon producing country non internally taxed NET content. Such imports will then be import duty taxed – let’s call it IDT. Such IDT funds will be turned over to the World Body described below.
Countries that import from non-compliant countries and refuse to comply with this repricing formula and then re-export to compliant countries will also have their exports to compliant countries taxed based on missing NET content.
Can this be accomplished? Some of the finest mathematical minds on our planet now spend their time devising algorithms for computerized trading of securities in order to exploit the weaknesses of other algorithms. The time has come for the economics profession to give these minds a new challenge, one that will benefit human civilization – and save it from the possibility of extinction.
As stated above all Import duty revenues (let’s call them IDR’s) collected by compliant countries will be turned over to a body such as the World Bank to be used to assist compliant countries with their difficulty in making necessary economic/social adjustments. These adjustments will fall into two categories; one from the decline nationally in fossil fuel export revenues and the other from climate change ocean rise.
Countries That Will Suffer
Immediate examples of the second category are a number of Island nations being inundated by rising waters and Arctic settlements being affected by global warming. Most will be without internal resources to resettle population. Many other nations with low land areas being inundated by rising oceans will also need assistance.
Populations in many areas of the planet will be severely affected as revenues from fossil fuels are eliminated. Russia, Australia and the Middle Eastern countries are examples. Many Middle Eastern countries are now totally reliant on oil revenues to pay for food imports. Such revenues will decline to the point where they will be insufficient for feeding the population. This also will have an impact on Middle Eastern oil and gas non-producers and minimal producers, those countries that have relied on grants from their wealthy neighbor producers. Egypt, reliant on neighbor contributions for food imports is a prime example. The future for Egypt will be bleak. Although extrapolating from present trends to make predictions is always problematic, current projections are a population there that will have increased from 90 million to 138 million by 2050. The Nigerian situation will be even more bleak. Its petroleum industry is the largest in Africa. Its population of 186 million is expected to grow to 390 million by 2050.
Time will be needed to allow many of these countries to restructure and rebalance their economies – as well as population levels – relative to available resources. Some in need of substantial assistance will be countries like India with pockets of poverty, minimal originating carbon revenue and low lying ocean populations. Many such countries will need massive injections of capital in order to restructure their industries and feed their populations. As a general rule, all nations that are unable to fund societal adjustments will need assistance.
A pricing/costing methodology needs to be implemented that will allow the world within this critical 10/15 year period to turn to carbon free sources of energy. Nation states at all levels of technological development must be given time to adjust. As they do, high carbon input products and services will leave the market and be replaced by products with low or no carbon energy input. Societally, this will force nations at all ends of the planet to adopt a different social political economic energy structural logic from that which exists today.
And Our Problem Goes Well Beyond Carbon
It must be understood: This is just the first step toward human planetary resource control – and human survival. Pricing in of other negative externalities harmful to humanity and all other life on the planet can come next. All nations need to acknowledge that our planetary problems can only be solved multi-nationally. The future of human civilization hangs in the balance.
“The central problem which the world faces in its attempts to avoid catastrophic climate change is a contrast of time scales. In order to save human civilization and the biosphere from the most catastrophic effects of climate change we need to act immediately, Fossil fuels must be left in the ground. Forests must be saved from destruction by beef or palm oil production.”
Our World Is Burning in Climate Change — by John Scales Avery — October 3, 2020
“I think the odds are no better than 50/50 that our civilization will survive to the end of the present century. Our actions today may make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever more complex and subtle forms of life and one filled with nothing but base matter.”
Sir Martin Rees, Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics and Master of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. Honorary title of Astronomer Royal, Gold Medal of the Royal, 2008
“Due to the power/interest structures of global capitalism and the juggernaut-like momentum of the global economy, it is most unlikely that any of the radical changes to society and the economy proposed by environmentalists-especially changes in philosophies and worldviews, will be adopted in time. Consequently human civilization-primarily Western techno-industrial urban society, will selfdestruct, producing massive environmental damage, social chaos and mega death.”
Craig Dilworth, Uppsala University, Sweden, Too Smart For Our Own Good. The Ecological Predicament of Humankind. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
“Without quick action to curb CO2 emissions, global warming is likely to increase by 4 degrees Centigrade (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above today’s normal during the 21st century and that is dangerously close to the temperature of 6 degrees Centigrade above normal that initiated the Permian-Triassic extinction event 252 million years ago when 96%* of all marine species and 70% of all terrestrial vertebrates were wiped out. *(current estimate 81%)”
World Bank report 2012
“The urgency of ‘looming extinction’ cannot be overlooked. It should be a constant focus of programs of education, organization, and activism, and in the background of engagement in all other struggles.”
Internationalism or Extinction By Noam Chomsky, Paul Shannon, Charles Derber, Suren Moodliar, originally published by Open Democracy February 27, 2020
David Anderson brings together a wide range of interests in his writings, namely; theology, history, evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, geopolitics, and economics. He has written four books. The fourth is about a necessary geo political, social, religious, economic paradigm shift for human survival. Go to: