Don’t nuke Brazil

This is a reply to Dan Miller’s comment on RealClimate.org

Dan Miller #50

EXCELLENT BUT OPTIMISTIC

Your comments are excellent and your TEDx talk is very excellent.  I shall do my best to get others to watch it.

However (as Mona Lisa Vito said in My cousin Vinny), you are too optimistic to claim that “Fee and Dividend” alone can “fix climate change”. I guess that your talk was fashioned for the political scene in the USA and you may be restrained by political reality. These constraints should not hold in discussions here.

THE TIMESCALE IS TOO SLOW

Your timescale for cutting emissions is too slow. Let us assume a new US government will introduce a Fee&Dividend like you describe by the autumn of 2017 and CO2 emissions are initially charged at 1¢ per Kg and rising to 10¢ per Kg in ten years. Can this cut emissions fast enough?

Carbon Brief did their calculation “Six years worth of current emissions would blow the carbon budget for 1.5 degrees” in autumn 2014. By now it will be “Three years current emissions”. To keep below 2°C there seems to be 20 years or so but with the “lack of feedbacks” – that you mention – means it is difficult to get reliable estimates.

Using your numbers, even after 10 years the cost of a gallon of gas will only increased by about 15%. That won’t change behaviour much. The problem is average lifestyles in the USA have carbon footprints that (if they were world wide) run through the IPCC’s carbon budget for 2°C in a couple of years and not much longer for 3°C.

If the rest of the world were to keep their emissions low, this would not be a great problem – but the poor in the world aspire to live like the rich. They must be shown good lifestyles that are low carbon – and soon.

HIGH QUALITY, LOW CARBON LIFESTYLES

Fee&Dividend would be a very good start but at the modest levels of fees you mention lifestyles of won’t change enough – or fast enough. The important stage will be when people in the poorer parts world look to high quality, low-carbon lifestyles in the rich world and see them as desirable.

A word of warning, there may be carbon costs to creating a low carbon lifestyle. See “The carbon cost of achieving low carbon lifestyles”.

MILITARY ACTION?

It may be that tariff barriers alone are not enough to spread Fee&Dividend throughout the nations of the world. You hint in your TEDx that military action might be justified. I’d at least consider sanctions and blockades. I was drunk when I wrote “Nuke Brazil?” but the gist is not dissimilar to a point you made.

P.S. At a 2010 UK election meeting I asked Bob Ainsworth, then UK Secretary of State for Defence, whether there was any military planning for climate change. He said there were some analyses of where the effects of climate change may cause conflicts. He also said that he knew of no planning that would envisage an international military task force to enforce climate change treaties.

Understandable perhaps, but if we are setting off a doomsday machine that will kill hundreds of millions or billions of people, some diplomatic and military analysts somewhere should be at work on the issue.

P.P.S. Perhaps a better option is a “World Wide Carbon Fee and Dividend

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