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Like a speeding freight train: Carbon emissions are on the rise

Carbon Emissions Are Rising

On Wednesday, the representatives of nearly 200 nations attending the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, woke up to a set of new, disturbing statistics. For the first time since 2014, global carbon emissions are rising again. According to the Global Carbon Project, carbon emissions increased by 1.6% in 2017. They are also projected to grow by 2.7% in 2018. 

As if decisive action was not already urgent, these findings make the need for drastic carbon emissions cuts even more compelling. 

The world knows what to do. Implementation, however, is a whole different ballgame. getAbstract’s Climate Change Channel features two proposals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions worth highlighting. Though developed with the US in mind, they are universally applicable. The proposals won’t avert catastrophic climate change, but they are good starting points. 

getAbstract Climate Change Channel

A carbon tax could turn things around

The Climate Leadership Council propose a revenue-neutral carbon tax. This may find political acceptance in the US, a leading greenhouse gas emitter. The council consists of a group of senior Republicans, including former secretaries of state James Baker and George Shultz. They propose imposing an incrementally increasing carbon tax on polluters. This would encourage industries to shift to cleaner energy sources. The government would then redistribute carbon tax revenue among the American people. This measure will resonate among economically disaffected Americans. A key advantage of the plan is its alignment with conservative principles of free markets and limited government. Monetarily incentivizing companies to go green will make many CO2 regulations redundant. This will also help reduce government bureaucracy.

Policy measures are also needed

Stanford scholar Jeffrey Ball cautions that taxes won’t be enough to reach the world’s climate goals. He found that the results from 42 countries with carbon pricing schemes have been modest. In most cases, taxes were set too low to provide enough incentives for companies to go green. Ball thus advocates for additional policy measures. These include phasing out coal, keeping nuclear power plants running, and investing heavily in renewable energy. Ball also calls for an increase in fuel taxes to cut emissions in the transportation sector. This is a politically daunting suggestion considering the recent popular backlash against French President Emanuel Macron’s fuel tax hike.  

To stop carbon emissions from rising further, focus on the short term

Policy options are narrowing and windows of opportunity are closing. Now is the time to take more drastic measures. Researchers at the University of California urge leaders to focus more on the short term and the politically feasible. They also want researchers to focus more on imminent concerns. Scientists must become better at anticipating extreme climate events and designing response strategies. 

Read more on the 2018 Climate Change Conference here.

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