Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a grim report on the state of the planet: over the course of about a century, global temperatures have risen by 1 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels, and they are currently projected to be 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as early as 2030. Unless we take drastic action within the next decade, they will continue to rise even further. To prevent ever-rising global temperatures, we need to cut carbon emissions 45 percent by 2030 and reach “net zero” by 2050. Considering the current government’s policies on the environment, such measures seem unlikely. Even if we succeed in achieving these goals, higher temperatures will produce more floods, wildfires, droughts, food shortages and refugee crises. If we fail to mitigate climate change, these effects will prove even more dire. The best scenario I can imagine is that the flooding will put out the wildfires.
So, what can be done about this? Well, the United States energy sector is responsible for about 12.5 percent of all global carbon emissions, so national efforts could produce significant positive results. But we need to realize that even moderately liberal reformist policies, such as cap-and-trade programs or carbon taxes, are not severe enough to be effective. Moreover, as proposed solutions, these policies place much of the burden on consumers. A carbon tax large enough to meet current emissions reductions means that gas prices would rise by about 80 percent, the price of electricity would increase by over 50 percent and the price of groceries by about 10 percent. Under such a plan, we would need the carbon tax to fund a “carbon dividend,” providing everyone in the United States a regular payment to offset the increased cost of living. This would improve the purchasing power of the bottom 60 percent of poorest Americans. If we are hell-bent on destroying the Earth, maybe we should start compensating those who are bound to suffer most.
But the best option (so the least likely under the current administration) is to nationalize the energy sector. To save our planet, we need to eliminate the profit motive and focus on a total conversion to green energy by 2050. The private sector is inherently reliant on the perpetual growth of production and consumption, but our survival depends on a rapid reduction of the carbon emissions created by this very same process. If the private sector dictates our future, then we are guaranteed not to have one.