How do we stand up to Putin and stop the climate catastrophe
How do we face Putin and avoid a climate catastrophe at the same time?
Quit our addiction to fossil fuels. Here’s how to get there.
In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the West imposed a series of sanctions.
Russia is the second largest exporter of crude oil in the world and the main exporter of natural gas in the world. Regardless of the short-term effects on our pocketbooks, in the long run we need to move to renewable energies if we are to have any hope of keeping the Earth habitable, and freeing our economy from the influence of geopolitical foes.
This is where the carbon dividends come in.
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It works like this. We set a strict cap on the amount of carbon we allow into the economy. Permits will be issued up to this cap, and energy companies can purchase them at quarterly auctions. At every mine, refinery and port of entry, these companies have to use a permit for every ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere once that fuel is burned.
When their permits run out, they cannot extract or import more carbon-polluting fuels.
To keep the climate from rising 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – the goal of the Paris climate agreement – we need to cut emissions by about 90%. Achieving this by 2050 will require reductions of 7.5% annually.
We are currently decreasing at a rate of 1.2% per year.
By setting a carbon cap, in order to ensure we achieve our goals, we can simply reduce the number of permits issued by 7.5% each year.
But how are we going to do that without Americans hitting the high prices at the gas pump? This is where the carbon dividends come in. Revenue from the sale of permits will again be distributed as direct payments, without restrictions.
For the majority of the middle class and poorer Americans, the profits will cover more than any increase in fuel prices, and they will exit in the future. The people who produce the most carbon emissions are quite wealthy, and can afford higher prices.
The Earth’s ability to absorb carbon is a natural resource, which we should share equally, rather than giving the rich and the benefactors of oil free rein.
In addition, everyone benefits from a cleaner planet.
One study found that a quarter of a million premature deaths would be prevented over the next 20 years in the United States with a carbon fee and dividend program.
I know what you’re thinking now. It looks nice, Bob. But this will never happen. Don’t be sure! The idea is very popular across the political spectrum.
Carbon distributions were first proposed in 2009 in a bipartisan bill, and subsequent plans have come from both Republicans and Democrats.
There is already precedent for parts of this program. Since 2009, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has identified and sold carbon permits to energy companies in 11 northeastern states. They are boosting their economies and have proven their political resilience.
And in Alaska, each resident receives between $1,000 and $2,000 annually from the Alaska Permanent Fund, which invests oil revenues in the state. More than 80% of Alaskans say it improves their quality of life.
We treat gas prices as something out of our control, giving dangerous amounts of energy to petro-states like Russia – with disastrous consequences. By weaning ourselves off gas dependence, we will get relief from the polluted air that kills millions globally; mitigate the constant hemorrhage of government subsidies for fossil fuels and from wars for oil; Above all, mitigate the ongoing devastation of the Earth’s climate.
None of this is impossible.
The best way to contain Russia, and build a sustainable future, is a carbon dividend.