Presenting the OctoWheelBarrow!

Ladies and Gentlemen! I am delighted to present my latest invention: the OctoWheelBarrow. Don’t laugh – it is a lot better than the previous version, which used a square wheel.

A wheelbarrow with an octagonal wheel

Assume that we lived in a society where the state religion bans the use of round shapes in engineering. There would be two kinds of engineers: The opportunists and careerists would make a living from designing octagonal wheels and the decent ones would get politically involved and try to remove the ban. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

For this reason, I cannot attend innovation seminars anymore. To begin with, it is kind of surreal to have a person on stage telling people to think independently. Monty Python made fun of this in “Life of Brian”, where they had a huge crowd of people shouting “We are all different!” in unison. A creative person does not need to be told what to think.

Even worse, nobody attending such seminars is prepared to think outside the box of capitalism. There is an unwritten agreement that the purpose of all human activity is to generate ROI. If someone comes up with an idea to sell more guns, alcohol, or junk food, it is automatically considered a good thing. The purpose of a vending machine for soft drinks is to sell as many of those as possible, even if they are unhealthy. In order to accomplish this, engineers today use cameras with face recognition in order to display the gender- and age-appropriate ads. It is called progress.

My main point is not to criticize our current economic system. I just want to point out that we have all been brainwashed into believing that no alternatives are possible. Children are taught how to compute compound interest, but they do not learn where the money comes from. This way, innovation in our society is limited to technology. All other forms are banned. Ideas without business models are dead on arrival. That is not very innovative.

Here is a simple question I like to ask my students and attendees of my public lectures:

A gold digger departs into the mountains and finds a huge goldnugget. Upon returning to civilization, he is considered rich. Why?

Even though there is a simple and obvious answer to this question, many people do not get it.(*)

Our collective lack of imagination gets almost unbearable when talking about sustainability. We start by excluding the 99.9% of solutions which would be good for the environment but not have a business model and focus on the 0.1% of solutions that allow someone to get rich. That is no way to conduct a brainstorming. (Note: the figures quoted are used for rhetorical effect. They should not be interpreted literally)

Is there are conflict between economic growth and sustainability? I believe it is obvious because we are ultimately interested in consuming things. We do not work to earn money but to acquire purchasing power. Money allows us to have buy a big house with a huge garden, to get a nice car, and to travel to interesting places. In short, it allows us to consume non-renewable resources. If we were not allowed to use our money, we probably would not work that hard.

Anyway, I am not the only one of this opinion (see below). I would be happy to be proven wrong but currently I am more interested in finding out the truth. That will be the topic of a future blog post.

Some sources:

  • Isaksen, Elisabeth T.; Narbel, Patrick A. (2017): A carbon footprint proportional to expenditure – A case for Norway? In: Ecological Economics 131, S. 152–165. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2016.08.027.
  • Ward, James D.; Sutton, Paul C.; Werner, Adrian D.; Costanza, Robert; Mohr, Steve H.; Simmons, Craig T. (2016): Is Decoupling GDP Growth from Environmental Impact Possible? In: PloS one 11 (10), e0164733. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0164733.
  • Hickel, Jason (2019): The contradiction of the sustainable development goals: Growth versus ecology on a finite planet. In: Sustainable Development 145 (6), S. 10. DOI: 10.1002/sd.1947.

(*) Depending on demand, I might publish the correct answer here.

Denken ist erlaubt

GALILEI (fast unterwürfig): Meine Herren, der Glaube an die Autorität des Aristoteles ist eine Sache, Fakten, die mit Händen zu greifen sind, eine andere. Sie sagen, nach dem Aristoteles gibt es dort oben Kristallschalen, und so können gewisse Bewegungen nicht stattfinden, weil die Gestirne die Schale durchstoßen müßten. Aber wie, wenn Sie diese Bewegungen konstatieren könnten? Vielleicht sagt Ihnen das, daß es diese Kristallschalen gar nicht gibt? Meine Herren, ich ersuche Sie in aller Demut, Ihren Augen zu trauen.

Brecht, Bertolt. Leben des Galilei: Schauspiel. Suhrkamp Verlag.

Das Problem einer autoritären Erziehung ist, dass die Kinder nie zu denken lernen. Wenn jede ihrer Fragen mit dem Satz «weil ich es sage» beantwortet wird, verlieren Sie ihre Neugier und haben keine Lust mehr, sich selber Gedanken zu machen. Sie gewöhnen sich daran, dass es immer Autoritäten gibt – seien es die Eltern, die Priester oder die Lehrer – die alles besser wissen. Das Erfolgserlebnis des Denkens bleibt aus.

Ein grossartiges Cartoon des iranischen Zeichners Mana Neyestani

Aus den autoritär erzogenen Kindern werden gehorsame Bürger autoritärer Regime. Studien in den USA haben gezeigt, dass die Wähler und Wählerinnen, die für Donald Trump stimmten, sich vor allem einen starken Mann als Präsidenten wünschten. Sie brauchen einen Führer, der immer sofort auf alles eine einfache Antwort hat, ganz unabhängig davon, ob diese richtig ist oder nicht. Das Nachdenken gilt für sie als Zeichen der Schwäche. Diese Haltung ist in der Gesellschaft weit verbreitet. Im Jahr 2000 hatte ich ein Vorstellungsgespräch bei Boston Consulting in Chicago. Die Stelle habe ich nicht bekommen, weil der Personalverantwortliche das Gefühl hatte, ich denke bevor ich spreche. Mit diesem Urteil kann ich gut leben.

Autoritäre Systeme zeichnen sich durch ein einfaches Weltbild und die Unterdrückung abweichender Meinungen aus. Der Neoliberalismus ist deshalb autoritär, da er eine Lösung für alle Probleme postuliert und keine anderen Ideen zulässt. Die berühmte Behauptung von Margret Thatcher, dass es keine Alternative gibt (TINA), lässt sich kaum als Einladung zum Dialog interpretieren.

Wir leben heute in einer Welt, in der die freie Marktwirtschaft als göttliche Ordnung verstanden wird. Unbequeme Fakten werden unterdrückt und Unwahrheiten zu Dogmen erhoben. Obwohl unendliches Wachstum auf einem endlichen Planeten offensichtlich unmöglich ist, wird die Notwendigkeit des Wirtschaftswachstums selten infrage gestellt. Die Tatsache, dass der ökologische Fussabdruck der Menschheit um einen Faktor zwei zu gross ist und immer noch zunimmt, wird von den Mächtigen zur Kenntnis genommen und gleich ignoriert. Was nicht sein darf, kann auch nicht sein. Galileo hätte den Frust der Klimaforscher sofort verstanden.

«Die Wahrheit ist das Kind der Zeit, nicht der Autorität» sagt Galileo im oben zitierten Theaterstück von Bertolt Brecht. Was Galileo wirklich gesagt hat, wissen wir aus einem Brief an die Grossherzogin Christine (etwa aus dem Jahr 1615):

Ich möchte jene sehr klugen Väter bitten, dass sie mit aller Sorgfalt den Unterschied bedenken möchten, der zwischen den auf Meinung gegründeten und den beweisbaren Lehren besteht: Wenn sie sich nämlich deutlich vor Augen stellen würden, mit welcher Kraft die zwangsläufigen Schlussfolgerungen zwingend sind, würde ihnen eher klar werden, dass es nicht in der Macht der Professoren der beweisenden Wissenschaften steht, die Meinungen nach ihrem Willen zu ändern, indem sie sich bald dieser und bald jener anschliessen, und dass ein grosser Unterschied besteht zwischen dem Befehl an einen Mathematiker oder an einen Philosophen und der Anordnung an einen Kaufmann oder an einen Rechtsgelehrten, und dass die bewiesenen Schlüsse über die Dinge der Natur und des Himmels nicht mit der gleichen Leichtigkeit geändert werden können wie die Meinungen über das, was in einem Vertrag, einem Census oder einem Wechsel zulässig ist.

Hans Bieri, Der Streit um das kopernikanische Weltsystem im 17. Jahrhundert, Peter Lang Verlag

Anders gesagt, auch vor 400 Jahren musste die Rolle der Wissenschaft den Mächtigen erklärt werden. In den Rechts- und Wirtschaftswissenschaften gibt es keine Naturgesetze, da das ganze System menschengemacht ist. Gesetzliche Vorschriften, von denen erstaunlich viele für das Funktionieren der angeblich «freien Marktwirtschaft» erforderlich sind, können wir jederzeit ändern. Die Gesetze der Natur eben nicht. Ich bin nicht sicher, ob alle Juristen und Ökonomen dies verstehen.

Jesse Springer

Mit dem Coronavirus meldet sich die reale Welt zurück. Plötzlich haben wir es mit einer externen Bedrohung des Wirtschaftssystems zu tun, die sich nicht um menschengemachte Regeln und Gesetze kümmert. Erstaunt stellen wir fest, dass ein grosser Teil der Privatwirtschaft über Nacht abgestellt werden kann und wir trotzdem genug zu essen haben. Sogar das Klopapier reicht für alle. J. K. Galbraith hat dies in seinem Buch «Gesellschaft im Überfluss» schon im Jahr 1958 vorhergesagt. In einer Gesellschaft, deren materielle Bedürfnisse schon befriedigt sind, produziert die Wirtschaft hauptsächlich Produkte, die niemand braucht. «Die Wirtschaft schafft Arbeitsplätze» wird oft behauptet. Hoffentlich tut sie mehr als das, denn sonst müssten wir einen anderen Weg finden, die Menschen zu beschäftigen.

Im Gegensatz zur Klimaerwärmung stellt das Coronavirus keine Bedrohung der Menschheit dar. Weil aber diesmal Männer über 50 zur Risikogruppe gehören und ein Virus keine Lobby hat, wurde sofort reagiert. Es macht Sinn, die Verbreitung des Coronavirus so weit wie möglich einzudämmen, damit eine Überforderung des Gesundheitswesens vermieden werden kann. Zum Glück scheinen die meisten Regierungen der Welt dies zu verstehen und haben entsprechende Massnahmen ergriffen.

Die Coronakrise wäre auch eine gute Gelegenheit, unser Wirtschaftssystem grundsätzlich zu hinterfragen. Um dies zu verhindern, will eine Mehrheit der Meinungsbildner aus Politik und Wirtschaft möglichst schnell zur vermeintlichen Normalität zurückkehren. Es bestünde sonst die Gefahr, dass wir aus der Krise etwas lernten.

Genau dies sollten wir aber tun. Denn wir neigen dazu, jedes Problem mit minimalistischen Veränderungen des bestehenden Systems lösen zu wollen. Die Klimaerwärmung wollen wir mit Elektroautos und Solarpanels in den Griff bekommen, obwohl dies offensichtlich nicht ausreicht. Das Coronavirus lehrt uns, dass wir gewisse Herausforderungen auf diese Art nicht meistern können. Auch bei der Erwärmung des Erdklimas gibt es keinen Grund zu vermuten, dass das Problem innerhalb des bestehenden Wirtschaftssystems gelöst werden kann. Wir brauchen komplett neue Ideen.

Mike Lukovich

Die Frage ist, wer ein neues System aufbauen soll. Menschen wehren sich gegen Veränderungen, weil sie Angst haben, etwas zu verlieren. Es macht wenig Sinn, eine Gruppe von Kardinälen damit zu beauftragen, die Frage nach der Existenz Gottes zu klären. Analog können und wollen Menschen, die mit dem bestehenden Wirtschaftssystem reich und erfolgreich wurden, das System kaum umbauen. Niemand verlässt gerne den Bereich des Bekannten, um sich neue Themen zu widmen. Wenn Menschen doch über den Tellerrand schauen, werden sie mit dem Vorwurf konfrontiert, keine Experten zu sein.

Ich verstehe die Sorgen. Als Physiker hätte ich auch ein grosses Problem, wenn die Naturgesetze morgen aufhören würden zu gelten. Die Wahrscheinlichkeit, dass dies passiert und ich es auch überleben würde, schätze ich aber als sehr gering ein. Somit bilden wissenschaftliche Fakten eine gute Basis für den Aufbau eines neuen Systems. Nicht weil sie von den Wissenschaftlern stammen, sondern weil sie wahr sind.

Wer jetzt bereit ist, der Bitte von Galileo folgend den eigenen Augen zu trauen, stellt Erstaunliches fest. In vielen Städten der Welt hat sich die Luftqualität wegen des wirtschaftlichen Lockdowns massiv verbessert und der Lärmpegel ist gesunken. Dies ist eindeutig gut für Mensch und Umwelt. Der wirtschaftliche Schaden hingegen ist systembedingt. Wenn unser Wirtschaftssystem nicht auf Wachstum und Überkonsum basierte, wäre der Lockdown kein Problem. «Die Wirtschaft leidet» verkünden die Medien unisono, aber niemand fragt sich wieso. Rein abgesehen davon, dass juristische Personen kaum leiden können.

Gleichzeitig geht es dem Planeten schlechter als je zuvor. Die ersten drei Monate dieses Jahres waren viel zu heiss, und Europa wird wieder von einer Dürre mit grossen Ernteausfällen bedroht. Der Lockdown wird den globalen CO2-Austoss um etwa 5% in diesem Jahr reduzieren. Wir brauchen aber eine Reduktion von über 7% pro Jahr über die nächsten 30 Jahre, um eine Klimakatastrophe abzuwenden. Man muss kein Wissenschaftler sein, um zu verstehen, dass dies schwierig wird. Wenn wir in alten Denkmustern verharren, schaffen wir es sicher nicht.


Nachtrag 1: Ich möchte Margaret Thatcher nicht unrecht tun. Dass sie die Kohleminen in Grossbritannien geschlossen hat, war wohl gut für die Umwelt. Sie hat auch im Jahr 1989 in einem dringlichen Appell an die Generalversammlung der Uno vor den Gefahren der Umweltzerstörung und der Klimaerwärmung gewarnt. Ihre politischen Ideen waren sonst aber nicht besonders progressiv.

Nachtrag 2: Viele Denker*innen setzen sich im Moment mit den Konsequenzen der Coronakrise auseinander. Hier eine kleine Auswahl:

Nachtrag 3: Hier noch der Auszug aus dem Brief von Galilei Galileo:

Alla Serenissima Madama, la Gran Duchessa Madre.

….

Io vorrei pregar questi prudentissimi Padri, che volessero con ogni diligenza considerare la differenza che è tra le dottrine opinabili e le dimostrative; acciò, rappresentandosi ben avanti la mente con qual forza stringhino le necessarie illazioni, si accertassero maggiormente come non è in potestà de’professori delle scienze demostrative il mutar l’opinioni a voglia loro, applicandosi ora a questa ed ora a quella, e che gran differenza è tra il comandare a un matematico o a un filosofo e ‘l disporre un mercante o un legista, e che non con l’istessa facilità si possono mutare le conclusioni dimostrate circa le cose della natura e del cielo, che le opinioni circa a quello che sia lecito o no in un contratto, in un censo, o in un cambio.

Galileo Galilei, etwa 1615

Global Climate Compensation

Deutsche Version (English translation below)

Können wir die Klimakrise bewältigen? Die Antwort lautet ja, und es würde etwa $1.30 pro Kopf und Tag kosten. Dies ist weniger als eine Tasse Kaffee.

Das Problem ist nur, dass sich nicht alle Menschen auf der Welt so viel Geld haben. Die Wohlhabenderen müssen also bereit sein, den Ärmeren zu helfen.

Fast 30 Jahre nach der Unterzeichnung der Klimakonvention der Vereinten Nationen (UNFCCC) gibt es immer noch keinen praktikablen Plan, wie die Erderwärmung auf weniger als +2°C begrenzt werden kann, und die CO2-Konzentration der Atmosphäre steigt immer schneller an. Zusammen mit einigen Kollegen versuche ich deshalb einen Plan auszuarbeiten, um das Problem im Griff zu bekommen. Die Details dazu finden Sie hier: www.global-climate-compensation.org.

Ich meine dies ernst. Das CO2-Budget für +1.5°C Erderwärmung werden wir in weniger als 8 Jahren ausgeschöpft haben. Die Weichenstellung für eine bessere Zukunft muss also in den nächste 1-2 Jahren passieren. Nach COP25 in Paris und der Rede von Donald J. Trump in Davos bin ich der Meinung, dass die Reichen und Mächtigen versagt haben.

Melden Sie sich also bei mir, wenn sie an der Idee der globalen Klimakompensation mitarbeiten wollen. Das Problem können wir nur gemeinsam lösen. Das erste Treffen findet am 31. Januar 2020 in Zürich statt.

English Version

Can we overcome the climate crisis? The answer is yes, and it would cost about $1.30 per person per day. This is less than a cup of coffee.

The only problem is that not everyone in the world has that amount of money. The affluent must be willing to help the poor.

Almost 30 years after the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), there is still no workable plan to limit global warming to less than +2°C and the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is rising faster than ever. Together with some colleagues, I am therefore trying to work out a plan to get the problem under control. You can find the details here: www.global-climate-compensation.org.

I’m serious about this. We will have exhausted the CO2 budget for +1.5°C global warming in less than 8 years. The course for a better future must therefore be set in the next 1-2 years. After COP25 in Madrid and Donald J. Trump’s speech in Davos, I believe that the rich and powerful have failed.

So, get in touch with me if you want to work on the idea of global climate compensation. We can only solve the problem together. The first meeting will be in Zurich on January 31, 2020.

Watch this: Jeremy Rifkin on the Green New Deal

If you do not have time to watch this 55 minute talk by Jeremy Rifkin, you’re really not entitled to have an opinion on the issue of climate change.

In my opinion, he is far too optimistic about the possibilities of technology and he could have questioned the need for economic growth and talked about Degrowth. However, he is right about the fact that we are facing a revolutionary transformation of business and society. Old business models simply do not work anymore.


What Mr Rifkin misses

I have recently proposed Global Climate Compensation as a way to solve the climate crises. It is interesting to compare it with the lecture given by Jeremy Rifkin above. Here is my perspective:

  1. Rifkin is right about the seriousness of the Climate Crises and the need to act now.
  2. He is also right about the need for a fundamental transformation of technology and that digitalization and information are important.
  3. One problem is that ICT is currently a main driver of environmental destruction. Currently, data centers consume enormous amounts of power worldwide, even though they try to run in an optimal fashion. Distributed data centers will be less efficient and use more resources.
  4. Mr Rifkin wants to finance the transition by allowing governments to borrow more money, which is essentially equivalent to printing money. In other words, he wants to inflate and already inflated economy with more cheap money. Since global debt is already at a record level, this is probably not a good idea.
  5. He is not talking about a carbon tax, meaning that there will be no incentive to use less energy under his plan. By making energy even cheaper, it is unlikely that energy demand will decrease. We will only use renewable energy in addition to oil, coal, and gas.
  6. Even though he talks about unequal wealth distribution in this introduction, he fails to address this in his plan, which contains nothing about climate justice.

Obviously, Mr. Rifkin believes that economic growth will fix problems all. His views on technology and the environment are reasonably modern – albeit slightly naïve – but his economic ideas are still firmly rooted in the 19th century.

In contrast, Global Carbon Compensation takes money out of the fossil sector and uses it for the energy transition. This increases the price of fossil fuel and provides the necessary funds without further increasing global debt. In other words, it slowly deflates the carbon bubble and uses the money to deflate the debt bubble. Seems like a good idea.

Let’s Solve the Climate Crisis in 2020

In order to stop climate change, we need to call on less than 300 companies to compensate their carbon emissions. Somehow, this does not seem impossible.

By Henrik Nordborg
Zurich, 2019-12-29

The American historian Barbara W. Tuchmann begins her book The March of Folly with the following observation:

A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?

Tuchman, Barbara W., The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam.

She goes on to describe a number of examples of governments acting stupidly, even though they had all the information required for rational decisions. The book, which was published in 1984, only covers events up to the Vietnam war. Looking at the world today, we could easily add many more examples governmental madness. The question is only whether there will be anyone left to read them.

It is now obvious that humanity has failed to react to the threat of climate change and that we still do not have the faintest idea how to solve the problem. Both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement have failed to produce any tangible results and we are rapidly running out of time. The most recent reports by climate scientists indicate that we are close to reaching important tipping points, which would make climate change irreversible. On the other hand, greenhouse gas emissions are higher than ever before and are still increasing. Humanity is accelerating towards the precipice.

Given that we have less than ten years of carbon budget left at current emission rates, one could argue that we have already passed the political point of no return. Staying below 1.5°C of warming would require cutting global CO2 emissions by at least 7.6% annually, starting right now. There is zero probability of this happening as a result of international climate talks. In other words, humanity has about as much chance of surviving the 21st century as the proverbial snowball in hell.

It does not have to be like this. Most carbon emissions (carbon dioxide and methane) result from the activities of a small number of fossil fuel producers. Requiring them to compensate all the emissions resulting from the fuel they use and sell will introduce a global price on carbon emissions, incentivizing people to use less fossil fuel and to invest in alternatives. Do we want to force a couple of hundred companies to pay up, or do we accept the end of life as we know it? We only have a few years left to decide.

Global Climate Compensation

The simple truth is that we need to stop using fossil fuel as quickly as possible. In a market-based economy, this is most easily achieved by introducing a high and increasing price on carbon emissions globally. The only problem is that poor people cannot afford higher energy prices, which is why carbon prizing must be coupled to a financial redistribution scheme to be socially acceptable. One way to achieve all this is the following scheme for Global Carbon Compensation:

  1. All producers of fossil fuel pay a fee proportional to their production to a global fund.
  2. The money from the fund is distributed among the world’s nations on a per capita basis.
  3. The carbon price increases with time and with the carbon concentration in the atmosphere.

For simplicity, we can consider a price of 100 USD per ton of carbon dioxide to start with. With current emissions of approximately 37 Gt CO2 per year, the fund will receive 3.7 trillion USD annually. This is a lot of money but still less than the 5.2 trillion USD of annual subsidies given to the fossil fuel sector according the IMF. Every nation will receive a sum corresponding to approximately USD 480 per capita. This is a significant amount of money for many developing countries in the world. Thus, countries with a small carbon footprint will benefit and those with a high footprint will suffer.

A carbon price of 100 USD/t is not enough to decarbonize the world economy, but it will have significant impact. Here are some examples of price increases based on carbon emissions:

  1. Electricity from coal-fired power plants: 8 cents/kWh
  2. Gasoline: 24 cents/liter or 92 cents/gallon
  3. Barrel of oil: 40 USD
  4. Flying from London to New York and back: 180 USD economy, 340 USD business class.

Why this makes sense

In order to burn one ton of carbon, we need to add 2.67 tons of oxygen to produce 3.67 tons of carbon dioxide. Without this oxygen and the right to emit the resulting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, carbon-based fuels would be worthless. In other words, the business models of the fossil fuel companies depend on their right to destroy the atmosphere. There is no reason for why they should not pay for this right. In other words, the carbon footprint of a fossil fuel company consists of the direct emissions and all the carbon sold.

Fortunately, there are fewer than 300 significant fossil fuel companies in the world and we know exactly how much carbon they produce. We do not question their right to do business or to be profitable, but they must pay for their use of the atmosphere, which belongs to all of us. Obviously, they will react by increasing the price of fuel, thereby passing on the higher costs to their customers. The effect will be similar to that of a global carbon tax, but with fossil fuel producers and not the governments raising prices. This is an important distinction. The price of fossil fuel depends on many factors, such as the production cost, the carbon prize, and the profits of the producers. Today, fossil fuel companies are highly profitable, and their profits are paid for by consumers everywhere. Anyone arguing that access to cheap fossil fuel is important to society, needs to explain why the profit-making of the oil companies is tolerated. They can’t have it both ways. If these companies are required to pay climate compensation, the cost would be split between their shareholders and their customers.

Just as it is very efficient to implement the carbon prize directly at the source, it makes sense to use national governments to distribute the money from the fund. This has the additional benefit of not violating national sovereignty. Every government will receive a large sum of money, which it can use as it sees fit. Since fossil fuel prices will increase significantly, it will be wise to use the money for investments in renewable energy and to protect the weakest in society from the effects of rising living costs. In developing countries, it will be possible to do a lot more than that. After all, giving everyone in the Global South a universal basic income of 40 USD per month would change a lot of things.

Global Climate Compensation will transfer large sums of money from countries with a high per capita carbon footprint to countries using less resources. This is both necessary – in order to avoid an unprecedented refugee crisis and human suffering – and fair. After all, the industrialized nations do not have to pay for their historic emissions and the damage they have caused in the past. Furthermore, contributing to the fund is voluntary, as nobody is obliged to use fossil fuel. A significant increase in the price of fossil fuel will automatically lead to a reduction in demand, meaning that the figure of 3.7 trillion USD given above is probably far too high. Energy efficient countries will benefit from the GCC, regardless of their wealth and average income. The scheme therefore does not punish rich and developed countries but inefficient ones. The fund could be managed by the United Nations, which would give a badly needed boost to international collaboration without the need to establish yet another organization, but this is not necessary. The general rule is to simply pay out the money to countries based on the size of their population and not to interfere in national politics. However, a country behaving badly could be black-listed and lose its right to receive payments from the fund.

It also makes sense to couple the emission price to the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere in order to prevent a massive sell-off of fossil fuel. As soon as it becomes clear that the price of carbon will increase, fossil fuel producers will have strong incentive to sell as much as possible as quickly as possible. With a cleverly implemented carbon prize, this sell-off would simply make the prize increase even faster.

Is it possible to decarbonize the economy without sacrificing economic growth? Global Carbon Compensation is the only way to find out. If the proponents of technological solutions are right, the introduction of global carbon prizing will simply lead to a rapid decarbonization of the economy. If not, carbon emissions will sink anyway, but mainly through reduced consumption and sufficiency.

It is very difficult to find an argument against GCC which is not based on simple greed or selfishness. The principle that carbon emissions should cost the same everywhere makes a lot of sense. Likewise, it is easy to accept the idea that all humans have the same right to the oxygen in the atmosphere. Implementing this plan through fossil fuel companies and national government means that less than 500 parties need to be involved in working out the details. Furthermore, it the plan does not even need political approval, as there is no law preventing private companies from making donations to a fund run by the UN even today.

How to make it happen

How realistic is this plan for Global Carbon Compensation? Obviously, the usual suspects like the fossil fuel industry and the governments of oil-producing nations will be vehemently opposed to it. The real question is therefore how many of us are prepared to oppose them.

The idea behind GCC is to give the fossil fuel producers a fair chance to show that they are willing to be part of solving the climate crisis. If they agree, they can start contributing to the fund immediately. If not, they have officially declared themselves enemies of humanity and lost all rights to exist. We will go after the companies, their owners, and their employees in every way possible, including government sanctions, legal actions, and activism. A company producing fossil fuel but refusing to pay GCC will be considered the moral equivalent of drug cartel but will find it a bit more difficult to hide. Owning shares in or working for a fossil fuel company not participating in GCC will be considered a crime against humanity. Governments and major corporations will only buy fossil fuel from corporations participating in GCC.

The time has come to get serious about solving the climate crisis. It will involve an unprecedented level of international collaboration and the transfer of financial resources from rich countries to poorer ones. Global Climate Compensation accomplishes this with a minimum amount of bureaucracy and government intervention and the plan could be implemented immediately. It will not solve all problems, but it is our best chance addressing climate change.

Are we going to allow a small number of fossil fuel producers to kill our children? If not, we’d better start acting now. So let’s demand Global Climate Compensation as soon as possible. There are less then 300 fossil fuel companies and millions of us, so it should not be too difficult.


Update 2020-01-25

Apparently, the CEOs of the oil companies are already discussing reducing their emissions because of the social pressure: