How We Solve The Climate Crisis

There are those propagating market-driven solutions, such as a carbon tax and greater information. But there are also a great many activists seeking to make the case for short-term, quick responses, such as government investment in research and development and subsidies.

To tackle the climate crisis effectively and efficiently, minimising risks and seizing opportunities, though, we need a comprehensive package which takes into account many different measures. Both mitigation and adaptation must be considered, and different industries will play different roles.

Going further into mitigation, there emerges an obvious need to distinguish between short-term, medium-term, and long-term solutions — between those things we can do for the next twenty or thirty years, those we can do for a few generations, and those which will genuinely prevent crisis re-emerging in the future — in terms of the climate or anything else.

Lessons from the climate crisis can inform our economic policy for centuries to come.

Let’s start, then, with these long-term measures. They can, and will, have an immediate impact, but should remain priorities long into the future. For me, this is where the market-driven thinking comes into play: carbon taxation, and an information economy.

These are both means to the same end: making the impact of people’s — and companies’ — decisions more salient, more impactful to them.

The information side — such as carbon labeling and smart meters — is the enabling side of this policy. It will help those who want to make a difference on the individual level make that difference in a positive way, and it would also lead to companies attempting to reduce their impact, in order to ensure that they are seen positively. Being on an index of the worst carbon offenders isn’t something which companies want.

A carbon tax, however, is the more paternalistic side of this policy, the bit where government can really lead and take forceful action. A carbon tax forces people to change and make better decisions, fixing the externalities of carbon and methane pollution, as well as plastic waste potentially, and it too would put significant pressure on companies.

The carbon tax would make the economy more sustainable and bring it further towards the “world of truth” — the ideal state of an economy. It also allows the economies with the greatest consumption — i.e. western economies — to impose solutions on non-cooperative countries.

Hence, when we reconcile ourselves to carbon action, we can make sure that it is not in vain.

However, short-term investments are equally useful for government. Investment in nuclear fission and afforestation, for example, could help to transform our energy mix and reduce our carbon footprint, in turn helping us to reach our targets for net-zero emissions.

Governments also need to take decisive action to transform the grid in the short-term, creating new microgrids which are easier to run sustainably with renewable and unreliable energy.

Research and development funding for renewable sources is imperative, and should form a key part of any government’s plan to deal with the climate crisis. They will not be so useful long-term — because nuclear fusion technology is advancing rapidly— but we cannot afford to neglect them, because we’re already feeling the heat.

Nuclear fusion, then, is the key to the medium-term plan. 2035, 2040, and 2050 are regularly thrown around as dates for the first energy-generating nuclear fusion plants, and while there are some problems and challenges to get past, nuclear fusion is certainly showing promising signs in terms of sustainability and productivity.

Other clean sources of energy, though, will undoubtedly emerge, and the above short-term R&D in renewable energy may produce some additional options. We need a diverse mix of reliable, sustainable sources of energy, and our medium-term response needs to make this a priority.

CCS technology will obviously be a short-term priority, but with mostly medium-term benefits — it is still in its relative infancy. It can help us, of course, reach emissions targets, but it is what happens beyond then that will be crucial. Negative emissions will offset developing economies’ positive emissions, and the ability to micromanage the climate with CCS is attractive, to avoid future climate instability, whether natural or man-made.

GMO and lab-grown food will be hugely important not just for ensuring we stay away from the brink with the climate, but for offsetting the predicted population growth of many developing countries. According to Pew, the world population is set to rise at least another couple billion before stabilising, and we will need GMO and lab-grown food to counteract this development.

For all the scientific solutions and investments, though, there is one political proposition for the medium-to-long-term, and it’s to do with privileges for businesses.

Many have bemoaned the decline of corporate responsibility, particularly in big businesses at the top of the food chain, not just because of poor pay and conditions, but also because of the disdain for the climate of many businesses.

Businesses will continue to find market and legislative flaws to exploit for short-term profit, even if we can remove the climate threat. Therefore, making LLC status contingent on good corporate behaviour seems a sensible move for law-makers to make, provided the conditions are not too stringent.

Broadly speaking, corporations should be required to pay properly, treat workers with respect, invest in their communities and their workers, and place long-term profit and sustainability above short-termism and avarice. Take it from a proponent of the market — our economy works better when companies don’t treat it and the people who make it work with contempt.

All of these measures are significant; none can be neglected. More will have to be done, on a more micro level, which I won’t go into for the purpose of cogency. There’ll be things I’ve missed for certain — so feel free to suggest anything else below.




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