As public awareness of climate change and desire for action have both increased, corporations and their bought politicians have been working overtime to find ways to misinform the public, shift blame, and convince people that everything is under control, and no systemic change is needed. One of the tools that has been developed to help that effort is the concept of “net zero”. It’s a reasonable-sounding concept that could be perfectly valid, if we lived in a world run by honest people who want to do the right thing with their power.
Sadly, that’s not the world in which we live, so let’s take a closer look at this “net zero” thing:
Thanks for the video. Just another reason to support a simple greenhouse gas emissions tax and dividend plan ala James Hansen.
Abe Drayton says
It would be better than what’s being done now, but as you know I don’t have much faith in market-based approaches.
I’m sorry. I feel like I’ve asked this before, but I don’t remember the answer. What government policies do you think are better? Government mandates, such as bans of internal combustion engine cars and renewable energy portfolio standards? Those are fine too. I think the simple tax approach is probably better because it’s much more resistant to gaming and corruption compared to mandates, but government mandates, if carefully structured, are fine too. I mean, “net-zero” is an example of a government mandate approach IMO as opposed to a simple tax. It was not “carefully structured”, but its failure is not an indictment of all possible government mandates.
Abe Drayton says
I view the “net zero” thing as coming from corporate interests, not “the government”.
But that’s the problem, isn’t it? The government works for capitalists, and not for humanity.
I’m in favor of pretty much any policies that will move us in the right direction, but I don’t have much faith that the American system of governance is capable of actually dealing with climate change or the political/economic problems facing it right now.
My problem with Hansen’s tax proposal is that it would be added to an already over-complicated tax system, and I think it would end up hurting poor people the most. If the tax is paid at the gas pump or the power bill, then you’re going to be charging a lot of people more for necessities, when they have no power to make alternatives available. We have no direct control over how our power is generated. Most of us don’t even have control over who we’re buying power from.
And yes – everybody gets a check every year, but that isn’t going to help people who’re already living paycheck to paycheck. An extra check once a year is great, but it doesn’t help you pay rent or get to work when it’s not going to arrive for another six months.
I think the most useful thing the government could do is declare climate change a national emergency, and invest a huge amount of money in updating the power grid, actually setting up non-fossil energy, and investing in new ways of growing food. As we’ve covered, I’m open to nuclear power, but I’m pessimistic about the human element in its safety when in the hands of people whose primary concern is their budget.
I also think that’s about as likely to happen as Hansen’s tax plan is – especially if we’re assuming that the burden of that plan would fall most heavily on the worst offenders.
Which is why I’ve shifted to focusing more on ways to build power that’s not answerable to our current rulers.
Understood. Thanks the answer.