Climate change kills 200 species every day. Contrary to voices like Naomi Klein calling for complex solutions to a complex problem, a carbon tax is the most effective and parsimonious solution to global warming. All the democratic and widespread media talk does is induce a bystander effect whereby no worldwide solution is enacted. When the solution is already published. With the names of 3500 economists, 27 Nobel Laureates and Four Federal Reserve Chairs. A carbon tax with reallocation to research and development. Let us remember, now, the causation is fairly simple. Burnt fuels release greenhouse gases; gases retain the sun rays within the atmosphere and heat emanates from the earth’s surface; average atmosphere temperature rises; so ecological equilibria which sustain our food and water is endangered. Autocatalytic loops worsen – and worsen. Hence the 200 species dying a day matters. Food and water are our most important interests, and without insects who maintain ecological balance – ordinary people are endangered. No surprise, we are within nature. Humans, recall, are gene replication products. To an atheist sitting in London, though, humans may appear to accommodate nature rather than nature accommodate our sprawl. Surely, the separation of humanity from nature—attributable to monotheism leading to human-centric humanism—led to climate complacency. Like bees, Londoners seldom contemplate how London works, just of making their honey; the hive looks after itself if everyone does (no disruption, no rebellion) their job. Consider how few attended Extinction Rebellion; instead most obeyed school, work or seminars. More important interests like food and water for humanity are eclipsed by immediate interests like payday.
‘Not My Problem’
The news about climate change wears a western lens and too often frames climate change and natural disaster as elsewhere instead of here. From the perspective of our Londoner today the fragility of plumbing, imported food, clean water, and healthy livestock is underappreciated. Entropy, however, is the norm. Few consider how others’ problems become theirs. Given the complaints and immigrant backlash raging today, how would millions fleeing water shortage compare? Magnitudes worse. Few, though, think this through. An abstract and distant threat is hard to address, near imaginary. As Adam Smith said, a British person’s stubbed finger matters more to them, during average workdays, than everyone in China. Business is business.
Unfortunately, a business-is-business approach contradicts facts. The complacent faith in the system that will work things out no more resolves danger than reasoning that ignoring ionising radiation prevents any poisoning. The complacent approach seems easier, and is widely acclaimed fairer; everyone adds to what is valued by algorithms, argue neoclassical and neoliberal market fans. Yet the complacency leaves out embedment within ecology. The auspicious algorithms ignore externalities, because humans have misplanned. Some argue that the market is never planned: the market is organic choices between demand and supply. However, just as an apolitical opinion is itself political, choosing to follow precedent follows others’ presets.
Scarce planning is itself planned by prior generations. Market regulation and artificial algorithms are normalised power whereby hidden assumptions reign. The interests of humanity differ from internalities today. Internalities create, in Thurnbergese, “fairytales of eternal economic growth”. The free-market view kicks away history’s ladder. Crediting innovation to entrepreneurial companies when impactive innovations were state-funded and researched: cotton, computers, internet, nuclear energy, space travel, smartphones grew in tax subsidised research inveighed against (cold, hot, trade) wars without serving consumer demands.
Misinformation Conveyor Belts
The market phobia truism persists; climate protesters are smeared as a starry-eyed anti-money brigade. (No doubt inspired by vested interests campaigns.) Despite 3500 economists, 27 Nobel Laureates, and 4 past Federal Chairs pushing a carbon tax. Who knows that? Few. The media conveyor belts baffle us into confusion and inaction. We tend to value news reports by number rather than by quality. A psychological quirk named the Availability Heuristic whereby we recall salient rather than true and helpful information. The numbers imply conflicting reports and complexity which, again, means diffuse inaction where unilateral movement is requisite. A carbon tax has the Occam razorlike quality, beyond divisive ‘green new deals’, for a global meme. Simple ideas spread more easily and are accepted more easily, says Daniel Kahneman. Granted, global powers are making changes, but in a Tragedy of The Commons. Tragic because economic shortcuts ultimately ruin everyone’s’, not just others’ interests. The developing world naysay blame on developed emissions; the developed naysay blame on developing emissions. In a free market, the thinly distributed choices make it especially difficult to enact systemic change because of excess options and conflicting interests. Because everyone is responsible, no one is.
For the market economy to furnish the world population to the consumption standards of Americans, we would need the resources of 3.9 planets.
Carbon taxation requires legislation. Top-down legislation would allow for rebates to citizens and reinvestment in weapons of mass conservation. Contrary to bottom-up developments from entrepreneurs and engineers (in Musk we trust) top-down legislation predetermines what engineering gets done and what’s profitable. True, influence does run both ways, but to enact genuine radical change, top-down intervention is needed. Just look at Germany and Costa-Rica and Sweden for examples of high taxation and welfare spending and investment in renewable research and development. Costa Rica refuses to expend its rainforest, Germany pays a premium for citizens’ renewable panels giving energy to the power grid, and Sweden where 57% of energy comes from wind, hydropower and local biomass.
Or the U.S government spending $598.5 ($617 in 2019) billion each year on research predicated on soldiers, ships, warplanes, spyware, tanks. With over $1 trillion dollars on nuclear arsenal for the next thirty years. An ecological Manhattan project (implementing nuclear power for good) is plausible from top-down. Just as the hydrogen bomb and the moon landing became plausible via state-orchestrated science, so too can better renewables; a socialistic approach isn’t an aberration.
The tax proposes one puts a price on the emission of greenhouse gasses proportional to their contribution to the greenhouse effect. The tax would be tapered up year-by-year to give the economy time to adjust. Once the tax begins, it will become normal; countries will inevitably adjust to the compelling example. (Just as the USA came to obey European property rights and stopped pirating Lord Byron’s poetry.) If a Democrat USA along with compatriot nations imposes tariffs on imports from countries that disobey carbon taxation, taxation will work well worldwide. Granted there is resistance from oil-dependent economies (Russia, Congo, Saudi Arabia) but precious less compared to consequence from alternatives. New green tech also boasts ten times more jobs than greenhouse gases And oil and natural gas, remember, wouldn’t be banned via tax, but the value and therefore investment in alternative energy sources would incrementally rise in proportion to carbon decline.
This does not mean farewell to good old fashioned capitalistic competition. The Manhattan Project and Space Race were successes because of competition with the Soviets, whereas the nebulous threat of climate cataclysm irrationally arouses less fear. But an economy with the strongest sustainable technologies is the most competitive in the world; fear of being outpaced by China surely (as the USA once feared the pace of USSR and Japan) can motivate and feedback in a productive loop. One where self-driving hydrogen cars are reverse engineered more than pretentious smartphones. The mutually assured destruction of the environment can bring people together by having them compete.