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The Myth We Don't Know How to Solve Global Warming Becomes Self-Sustaining

Robert Samuelson recently claimed in the Washington Post, “Based on present technology and knowledge, we don’t know how to solve global warming.”

This is a cop out. We know what to do. Politicians simply don’t want to invest the political capital necessary to solve a problem that will outlive their term of office. And the attention of venture capitalists is even shorter. It will take patience, commitment and determination to solve the problem on behalf of and for the benefit of our grandchildren.

James Hansen, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira and Tom Wigley claim Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change.

Joe Romm disputes this claim in an article Why James Hansen Is Wrong About Nuclear Power and the OECD’s report “Public Attitudes to Nuclear Power”  shows that only 28% of believe   nuclear   power   is   a   safe   and   important   source   of   electricity  and  that  interested  countries  should  build  new  nuclear power plants whereas 34%  of respondents polled  believe  countries  with  nuclear  power  plants should use the ones they already have, but not build new ones.

Global warming is a classic tragedy of the commons in that the environment is a resource shared by all but in the absence of regulation some are exploiting the resource without limit to the point that the common is depleted and is ultimately ruined.

Exploiters point to the benefits energy provides while discounting the destruction the production of fossil fuels produce; both of which can be quantified.

According to the World Bank, the 2013 nominal gross world product was approximately US$75.59 trillion of which energy about 8 percent came from energy, for about US$6 trillion annually. The current environmental cost of business however is estimated in 2013 at $4.7 trillion a year by the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity program backed by the Group of Eight economic powers and the United Nations therefore the benefit/cost ratio is astronomical.

This is a classic case of privatized profits with socialized losses. The 99.9% is essentially paying close to near double the actual cost of energy while the incumbent providers line their pockets with the difference.

As economists tell us, rent-seeking results in reduced economic efficiency through poor allocation of resources, reduced actual wealth creation, lost government revenue, increased income inequality, and (potentially) national decline.

Unfortunately, governments are complicit in these activities that lead to the decline of nations. Including the so-called progressive nations like Canada, as witness the recent headline in the Globe and Mail, Canada pushes for oil sales to China as it seeks climate leadership.

The shipment of Canadian crude across the Pacific in large volumes is abhorrent to most British Columbians as witness the result of the recent provincial election and would compete with and ultimately squeeze out local technology that resolves the climate problem.

Most nations seem to think that by signing on to the Paris Accord and simply putting a price on carbon lets them off the hook.

Really, a hands-off, market based, approach to an existential problem like climate change is the best we can do?

It will be expensive to solve climate change but within 20 years the solution outlined here starts paying for itself while it continues to scale up in accordance with the following table.

Ten billion dollars amortized over 15 years, over 7 billion people comes to 10 cents per person or in the alternative the rewards for the offspring of the cooperative who finance the solution to the problem will be enormous.

Can the cost really be that low for solving virtually all of the woes of  mankind (see Richard Smalley’s  Future Global Energy Prosperity: The Terawatt Challenge)?

The answer is yes.

A tragedy of the commons can be best remedied in kind.

Photo Credit: Jon S via Flickr

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