How About We Try Some ‘Carbon Quantitative Easing?’
The 50th anniversary of Earth Day was celebrated this week in the midst of a pandemic that has killed over 186,000 people worldwide. The resulting shutdown has cleared the skies above major cities, cast new light on the dangers endemic to air pollution, and muted one of the biggest events on the environmental calendar. Celebrations on April 22 were held via webcast.
While some fear a loss of momentum, there’s no question the public’s understanding of the threat posed by pollutants has spiked sharply since the first Earth Day in 1970. Global awareness of the peril of climate change has never been higher.
Nevertheless, global oil producers are keeping the crude flowing. Chronic oversupply, coupled with a massive drop in consumption due to Covid-19, drove prices below zero for the first time. And while humanity has made great strides toward improving air and water quality over the years, those gains are under increasing threat from President Donald Trump’s push for deregulation.
Global biodiversity is on the verge of collapse. Europe experienced its warmest year on record in 2019, which amplified heatwaves, torrential rains and a record ice melt in Greenland. Starting in 2030, mass extinctions are expected to be sudden and catastrophic, as plants and animals are exposed to temperatures they’ve never experienced.
We’re now five Earth Days since the Paris Agreement was signed, and almost 60% of the way towards breaching the agreement’s call for limiting global warming “to well below 2°C.” (The stretch goal of staying below 1.5°C is all but dead.) Yet many of the climate solutions that could only be imagined 50 years ago are close to reality: This climate simulator lets you game out the best way to slow global warming.
Regardless of your preferred solutions, fixing the planet is going to be expensive. It will not, however, be incredibly profitable, especially in the short term, writes renowned sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson. His solution to save the planet? Think of it as “carbon quantitative easing.”
In essence, central banks could pay everyone on Earth to sequester carbon. “It would be complicated and messy, sure,” Robinson writes. “But not as complicated and messy as a mass extinction event.”
Josh Petri writes the Week in Green newsletter recapping the best reads and key news in climate change and green solutions.
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