Last week, a long awaited report showed the worst consequences of global warming will occur much sooner than we originally thought. After a week of listening to every news source, podcast, and YouTube video I could find – I decided to sum up the most important parts in an easy to understand format.
In 2015 world leaders got together in Paris and formed the climate change agreement which basically said that every country on earth would pass policies to lower emissions to reduce climate change.
So what was our goal before?
The goal was to not increase higher than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over our pre-industrial levels. They said if we got to 2 degrees levels, cities like Bangkok and others around the world would be completely under water.
For a couple of decades, the 2 degree Celsius mark was the point in which we would tip into severe and irreversible damages around the world.
They say that if nothing is done to reduce emissions then in that 2C world, an incredible increase in destructive storms, polar ice caps melting, increased drought, loss of coastal habitats, poverty, and all of the worlds coral reefs destroyed.
And where are we?
As of now, we’re at the 1C mark, so we’re already halfway towards this terrifying climate tipping point. It’s predicted to hit the 2C mark somewhere in the 2050-2100 range, so it’s not happening right now but it’s not too far away.
The cities around the world located in low-lying land and island areas, however, have already started seeing the impacts of sea level rise. Islands already have started disappearing. Fresh-water lakes now being flooded with salt water killing the prior sustainable food sources.
These smaller and more vulnerable countries around the world who have already started experiencing some of these impacts a few years ago raised their hand and asked the scientists to look at what happens at the 1.5 degree Celsius mark instead of the 2C stated tipping point.
Thats why in 2015 after the Paris accord was signed, they assembled the best scientists from around the world to tell us what 1.5C earlier warming looks like.
So here we are – Post report…
There were 91 different scientists from 42 different countries and reviewed almost 6,000 published studies and responded to almost 42,000 different messages from governments/scientists around the world.
A year and a half later at the reading of the report from the ICC in South Korea, and the report tells us that 1.5C looks much similar to 2C.
They said that the changes that would happen at 1.5C happened at an unprecedented scale. There would be major loss of sea ice, major loss of coral reef, major droughts and crop loss due to that.
Estimated millions of people losing their homes and livelihood due to this.
Without change, it’s suggested that we could reach 1.5 degree Celsius mark by 2030-2052 range…. which is literally just around the corner.
What were the policy suggestions made?
While the scientists were primarily focused on looking at the impact, they also reviewed how can the world change and what are the suggested policies which could improve this.
They laid out policy prescriptions including technology, farming, automotive, etc.
At the center of it all, was one economic policy that would be the driver of all of this change which was – A price/tax on carbon dioxide pollution.
Throughout the report, this one change would be the most powerfully effective reducer in carbon pollution and is honestly the central solution to climate change around the world.
Who suggested this change and how does it work?
This suggestion on the carbon price/tax’s primary came primarily from the economist William Nordhaus who at the same time as suggesting this change also was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on integrating climate change into long-term macroeconomics.
His idea emerged in his mind over time and ots the basic idea that governments use tax on things that they don’t want anymore. A way to disincentivize people for using it.
His breakthrough idea was – “How can we apply economics to the environmental damage that we know is caused by carbon dioxide?”
So Nordhaus looked at the science of climate change and how much damage is caused by heat causing emissions. Then he extracted the amount of damage caused by one ton of carbon.
His current estimate is about $40-50 of economic damage per one ton of carbon.
So his breakthrough is basically finding a way to put a price tag on the damage caused by climate changed. Then applying that as a price on the producer of it.
Unlike other pollution, carbon dioxide is invisible – you cant touch it – you cant see it -it just goes up in the atmosphere and is out of sight.
And when you’re able to say that 1 ton of carbon costs $50 of damage, or 2 tons cost $100 of damage, and that damage is quantified in things like sea level rise, which causes property damage, which leads to increased home insurance costs – Then it makes sense on why you should make policy changes to reduce it.
That is why both politicians and economists have said this is pretty much the most powerful and effective way to stop greenhouse emissions.
If polluters have to pay the same amount that they’re damaging the environment to pollute, it will create all sorts of market signals.
Companies would move to reduce investments in coal power plants and gas powered automobiles and investments in wind turbines and electric vehicles would automatically be picked up as the best options. As the price of gas and electric prices using carbon emitting ways increase, people will be choosing greener options as they will be the most affordable options on the market automatically.
Whats the current policies?
In the United States, there are no national level carbon tax program across the board. Some states have experimented with carbon pricing like California. While in the US it’s considered a politically toxic agenda, this has been implemented around the world including all over Europe, Australia, Canada is moving toward it next year, and so many more. Even countries like China are moving towards it.
In the US, it’s literally a dead topic due to the wrath of politicians and their wealthy donors…
Doing the right thing shouldn’t be political…
As it stands, it is not possible to pass a carbon tax in the US. The only thing we can do is to keep educating and explaining to people the benefits and positive impacts of it. In the future when the Trump administration and it’s destructive policies have passed, we will have someone there (whether Democrat or Republican) who will see the importance of this potential policy.
In Nordhaus’s plan, if we want to avoid any of the 1.5C impacts, the policy changes need to be implemented within at least the next 2-3 years. In the US, this means whoever the 2020 candidates are for president need to pick this up and run with it as a centerpiece of their message… Not because they should, but because the world needs them to…
No matter what country you’re in, everyone has to act as soon as possible – At a personal level, corporate responsibility level, and political level.
Here are the easiest 3 things you can do on a personal level to impact climate change.
Canvas Bags: Cut out plastic bags from your life completely!
Coffee Mugs: Stop ordering in to-go cups at Starbucks when you’re having coffee in the shop.
Local Veggies: Buy local produce and eat more veggies. Meat leads to so much greenhouse gasses.