It's time to move together toward real solutions
By Thomas Wills
Published Thursday, November 12, 2015 10:20 am
"Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems." Headline statement from the summary of the Fifth International Panel on Climate Change assessment - 2014.
In response to the multiple letters Nov. 4 from locals who reject the findings of mainstream climate science, 99 percent-plus of peer-reviewed papers in the field and the agreement of 97 percent-plus of all working climate scientists. In reading over the litany of standard science denial claims I found none with any merit according to the published science. But arguing with those who rely not on science but on "bins of ignorance," as one scientist recently termed denier sources such as those listed in several of the letters, is a waste of breath and ink since they just keep repeating the same false claims and conspiracy theories. In their world virtually every climate scientist, every nation's science academy, and every basic physics and chemistry textbook writer, and several major oil companies is part of a giant hoax to get you to quit using coal, oil and gas and install Chinese-made solar panels on your roof.
In the meantime, in the real world based on real science, the annual COP (Conference of Parties) in Paris in December will bring together the nations of the world to try once again to establish legally enforceable pledges of meaningful reductions in greenhouse gasses. There does appear to be some chance of a measure of some success this time around but unfortunately the nations that have pre-registered their pledges have a wide range of ways they claim will achieve their reduction goals, many of them reliant of some sort of political magic happening. The first step that needs to happen is to establish a price on fossil fuel CO2 that is released into the atmosphere, probably between $10 and $30 a ton. The price could then be collected as a tax, or a tariff on goods from countries who have not agreed to collection of a carbon tax.
One of the more attractive proposals is that from the quasi-conservative Citizens Climate Lobby that puts forth a revenue neutral market solution wherein a carbon tax would be collected at the source of fossil fuels; a tax that would be passed on in the cost of goods and services produced using those fuels. Then, the tax itself would be returned to each adult individual in the U.S. in the form of a credit or payment that could then be spent to offset the higher direct and embedded energy costs. Government would not be grown significantly by such a tax administered in this way and individuals could then choose to spend the money refunded on higher-priced fossil fuel or choose alternatives that did not include the added taxes. And we all would like to avoid paying a tax. Not a total solution to the growing problem of increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere but a reasonable first step that shows respect for those who prefer market solutions rather than just top-down regulation.
Yes, taking action on climate change caused by global warming caused by burning fossil fuels that add excess CO2 to the oceans and atmosphere is going to cost jobs in some industries such as coal mining. This will be a dramatic transition. But it also creates opportunities to grow new jobs in a whole range of new industries. Let's not waste any more public sector time debating science versus denialism. Let's come together and move towards real solutions to a very real problem.
Again, as a place to start if you don't understand the science or suspect that you have been misinformed: www.howglobalwarmingworks.org (very basic science) or to counter denier claims, like those in the letters, with facts: www.skepticalscience.com (advanced and in depth). And please consider supporting only political candidates who understand basic physics, chemistry and climate science and are willing to say so.