Global warming: Stop talking and start doing!

Almost every (sensible) person in the world agrees that global warming is a very serious problem for humanity. It's probably one of, if not the most existential threat that our generation faces.

As a result, there's no lack of angry/passionate people who tell us with great fervor how disgraceful it is that we aren't doing enough to fix this problem. Their claims are valid; it's true that we absolutely aren't doing enough to reverse this alarming trend. Better yet, we're all talking too much and not taking enough action.

Hence, I will offer a very simple course of action that you can do to do your part in helping to save the planet.

Death and Taxes

As an economist, I've found that the broad consensus among economists regarding pollution and climate change is that pollution in itself isn't necessarily bad; therefore, imposing a blanket ban on all forms of pollution would be inappropriate. The real problem is that there is no direct price on pollution for both people and consumers alike. Prices are signals; if the price of something is high, it won't be done/consumed as much as when its price is low. The absence of prices on pollution is is a massive problem and probably the main reason that global warming has been able to reach such alarming levels.

Hence, most economists agree that there should be a "carbon tax" on pollution. In other words, the more you pollute, the more you pay in (carbon) taxes. Placing a price on an activity like polluting will make the extent of this activity line up more appropriately with how much a person values the polluting activity. Pollute all you want; just pay the appropriate price for it. Once you make people pay for something, they'll only do it if the benefits outweigh the costs (price). A crucial element of this initiative is to use the revenues from the carbon taxes for "green" initiatives, such as protecting rainforests, investing in renewable energy, improving recycling efforts, and more.

If only such a carbon tax existed in reality. Then, we would all be able to pay our appropriate dues and finally be able to put our money where our mouth is. We would be able to make true progress on and impact in our mission to end climate change.

Thankfully, such an idea does exist.

CarboTax

If you really want to make an impact and actually contribute towards solving a problem rather than just talking about it, you should check out the website CarboTax. Taken directly from their website, CarboTax is:

A nonprofit initiative of Kensho.org, the non-profit arm of Kensho Technologies, with support from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Our goal is to give people a way to offset their climate impact and in so doing, to send a message that it’s time to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions, the leading cause of climate change.

When you offset your climate impact you are paying a symbolic “voluntary tax.” This tax-deductible donation is given to our charity partner the Forest & Sea Fund (FSF) directly supporting innovative forest and ocean conservation projects around the world. The recommended amount for your donation is based on your specific impact, measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) using a value of $25 per metric tonne...

For every $25 per tonne donated, a portion goes directly to offset your carbon impact through certified gold standard REDD+ carbon credits provided by Natural Capital Partners with additional funds going to support marine conservation efforts through our partner Oceans 5.
— Carbotax.org

The idea is simple. You take a 2-minute quiz about your lifestyle that is used to calculate your climate impact relative to the average citizen of your country. This impact is then converted into a monetary value that constitutes how much you should pay as a carbon tax. Obviously, this entire procedure is voluntary and, despite the name of the website, the so-called tax you pay is a voluntary donation to the nonprofit mentioned above. However, the point of this donation is that you offset your impact on the planet through a monetary donation that will be used to implement climate-saving initiatives. Oh, and the donation is tax-deductible.

Moreover, your payment is proportional to how much you "pollute", which means that if you're a vegan, don't have a car, have a solar-powered house, and recycle, your climate impact and payment will be significantly lower than that of the average person.

This is why prices work.

Once people realize that the price of an activity is too high, they'll be incentivized to take up "greener" habits that reduce their harmful impact on the planet and their "tax bill." If the price of their activities is at an acceptable level, they'll simply pay their dues and the money will go towards restoring the planet.

A REDD+ carbon credit is one type of carbon credit, equal to preventing one tonne of CO2 emissions. REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, and is a mechanism to value the carbon stored in rainforests. It has been in development for over 10 years by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the objective of reducing net emissions of greenhouse gases by protecting and better managing forests in developing countries.
— carbotax.org

This is why most economists preach the merits of carbon taxes so much and lament the fact that it has become a political issue. In theory, the idea is simple, but in practice, you run into this unfortunate little problem called politics.

Because really, merely say the word "taxes" and a person will throw you a dirtier look than if you insulted his/her mother).

(Note: if you don't live in the U.S., click the "Not in the U.S." option that is located towards the bottom of your screen on the CarboTax website.)

The choice is yours

You've now been given an option. You can choose to do this or you can choose to keep bitching and moaning about how horrible it is that humanity isn't doing enough to tackle climate change. Your zeal is admirable, but words aren't going to save the planet.

The choice is yours.

See you, Space Cowboy.