Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Washington Post Economics Columnist Robert J. Samuelson’s advice to solve the climate crisis is to double or triple the price of fuel and hope for a scientific breakthrough.
We’re on mission impossible to solve global warming
By Robert J. Samuelson
October 14 at 7:34 PM
If there were any doubt before, there should be none now. “Solving” the global climate change problem may be humankind’s mission impossible. That’s the gist of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N. group charged with monitoring global warming.
Unless we make dramatic reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane and others), warns the IPCC, we face a future of rapidly rising temperatures that will destroy virtually all the world’s coral reefs, intensify droughts and raise sea levels. We need to take action immediately, if not sooner.
It’s not clear how this would be done. The reality is that global carbon emissions are rising, not falling. Emissions today are about 60 percent higher than in 1990, according to the World Bank.
What is to be done?
My own preference is messier and subject to all the above shortcomings. I would gradually impose a stiff fossil-fuel tax (producing not a 10 or 15 percent price increase but a doubling or maybe a tripling of prices) to discourage fossil-fuel use and encourage new energy sources. In addition, some of the tax revenue could reduce budget deficits and simplify income taxes. With luck, a genuine breakthrough might occur: perhaps advances in electric batteries or storage. That would make wind and solar power more practical.
Imposing indescribable economic pain, while hoping for a bit of luck, is the “preferred” option? Why not simply build a few nuclear reactors, and use known technology to put a massive dent in the global carbon footprint?
Obviously I don’t believe CO2 is a problem – but if it was a problem, imposing unimaginably painful, life destroying taxes on ordinary people in the hope that their agony might produce a scientific advance would not be my preferred option.