Open Letter to Politicians Re: Climate Change Urgency & Carbon Tax

250 million years ago, this planet suffered the greatest mass extinction of multicellular life in the long history of the planet. The ocean conveyor current stopped. The ocean became anoxic, meaning it had little or no oxygen. Fish died; sulfur producing bacteria thrived. As the anoxic layer of the ocean reached the surface, hydrogen sulfide gas was released into the atmosphere in toxic quantities. The sky turned green. The mass extinction was brought onto land.

95% of all species on the planet died. This was due to global warming.*

Of course, global warming at that time could not have been caused by humans. However, it was global warming nonetheless. And, the temperature that caused this greatest of all mass extinctions was just 6 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial times, or 5 degrees Celsius warmer than today.

That same 6 degrees Celsius is well within the worst case scenario estimates of the most conservative climate scientists on the planet, the IPCC. So, you might say that the worst case should not concern us much. Clearly, that is an extreme prediction. And, you’d be right. However, the truth is that reality is more extreme. We are not on the path to the worst case scenario.

Our current global carbon emissions are dramatically higher than those assumed in the worst case scenario and are still increasing geometrically. Humans will not survive in a hydrogen sulfide rich atmosphere.

In order to survive as a species, we must put a simple tax on carbon. And, we must do so with all possible haste. We need to tax it at the wellhead, mine, or point of entry. This tax must be high. It can be revenue neutral if it funds an income tax break for those who need it most. The carbon released from mining coal or drilling for oil and gas is known. It is easy to calculate the carbon that will be released from the burning of any fossil fuel. A tax of at least $100 per ton will have a dramatic impact on how we get and use our energy.

We can’t drill our way out of this. We can only drill our way into extinction.

Our choice is clear. The reasons for it must be publicized to gain support. But, we must act fast. Already some of the predictions that were forecast as feedbacks and turning points are occurring. If we are to avoid certain human extinction, we have little time for playing politics as usual. If Republicans wish to filibuster, hold them to the original rules that they must stand there and talk the whole time. We can’t accept their political blockades to action. We will not survive.

Please make this your top priority.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this urgent matter of human survival.

* Note: That the Permian/Triassic extinction 250 million years ago was caused by global warming is well documented in the book “Under a Green Sky” by Peter Ward. For a shorter read that also explains the process and mixes in some potential medical applications of the knowledge, try this SEED Magazine article:

6 Responses to Open Letter to Politicians Re: Climate Change Urgency & Carbon Tax

  1. Rodnikov Magillovich says:

    A Carbon tax is dead wrong! If implemented, it will only be a license to continue to polute.
    What is needed are quotas, specifically reducing quotas, which will put far more economic pressure on swtiching to Green energies and conservation. Even then companies and people will buy and sell their quota coupons or licenses. I still remember the rationing in WW2 !!!
    I would espect the biggest screaming to come from the auto-racing community, but they too must learn to use alternate means!

  2. On what companies would you set the quotas? Will you limit the oil, gas, and coal pulled out of the ground? What about limiting imports? Or, are you thinking that specific types of companies would be given licenses for X amount of CO2 released? The latter is not a cap, but a floor. It’s a guarantee that each such company would emit at least their quota. They have no incentive to reduce further. And, some will cheat. Some will not be adequately monitored. Some will have special dispensations. It will be a mess.

    A simple tax at the wellhead, mine or point of entry, by contrast, rewards those who reduce for every single ton. And, a tax at the wellhead or mine would be figured into all costs down the road. So, all industries that use coal, oil, or gas would have incentive to reduce that use. Further, individuals would have proper incentives to reduce their own energy use. Look at the sales of SUVs when gasoline hit $4.50/gal in the U.S. They couldn’t give those huge piles of shit away. Prii (plural of prius) were selling at a premium.

  3. BTW, this is also the problem with floor and trade schemes. They do not set an upper limit, but rather a lower limit on CO2 emissions. If you assume there are some cheaters and that carbon credits will be priced such that they go to zero if there are more than necessary, the fact that the carbon credits are non-zero in value indicates that at least that much CO2 is being emitted. Note that we are not reducing CO2 emissions worldwide, even with all but the U.S. having signed on to Kyoto. Rather, CO2 emissions are at record highs and are geometrically increasing.

    Floor and trade is failing.

  4. Cerberus says:

    You are precisely correct in showing that the methodology in a kind of “carbon voucher”wouldn’t work because it would favor companies, while the rest of us would be paying for it.
    That’s reminiscent of of W. Shrubs so-called “blue sky initiative”, and everyone new that wouldn’t work including the (AP).

    Simply put, the oil companies don’t want to relinquish their power. And don’t they still get government subsidies? Yes. And I don’t see the price going down which is the governments excuse for still providing that corporate welfare project.

    So if they want to save money they can start there.

    • Absolutely! Removing subsidies and tax credits for fossil fuels is an important first step. Just remember what hidden subsidies there are as well.

      The government provides protection for the oil companies. In some areas, like the Persian Gulf, this means heavily armed navy ships escorting each oil tanker out of the gulf.

      The government builds roads suitable for extremely heavy trucks so that coal can be brought out of the mines. These roads need much thicker pavement to be able to tolerate the coal trucks. This costs taxpayers money. I heard the number at a lecture and am no longer positive of whether the pavement thickness needs to be 12″ or 24″ as opposed to the usual 3″.

      And, of course, though no one likes to think in these terms, least of all politicians and the fossil fuel industry who purchase them, companies have to pay money to dispose of all of their other waste, solid waste, toxic waste, etc. But, they do not have to pay anything to dump billions of tons of CO2 waste into the sky.

      A simple tax at the source or point of entry on every ton of CO2 that will be released when the fuel is burned would change that. It would acknowledge a fundamental cost to us and to the world for burning fossil fuel.

      We already see the effects of climate change and are already experiencing the cost in terms of lost food supply, severe weather, droughts, wildfires, etc. Let’s at least acknowledge that burning fossil fuel has a cost. Even those of us who do not accept the truth that it will cause our extinction should be able to see the basic fact that climate change is already impacting us negatively. And, it has a cost that can and must be quantified.

  5. Update. California is taking a more advanced stance with their Floor and Trade system. More patches. More fixes. We’ll see if they can get it to have the desired effect.

    A simple tax at the wellhead, mine, or port of entry is sooooooo much simpler and more effective than all of these kluges on top of kluges on top of kluges just to avoid using the word tax.

    A Grand Experiment to Rein In Climate Change

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