Governments Are Failing Their Citizens on Climate Change. Here’s How They Can Fix It
Governments should implement three measures to make emitters pay the social cost of carbon.
The world seems to have declared defeat in the war against climate change. This summer in the U.S., the Trump Administration proposed to lower the “social cost of carbon,” which is an approximation used by businesses in their cost-benefit analyses of how much harm is caused by releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus increasing global warming. The Administration also wants to make it easier to release methane — a highly potent greenhouse gas — into the air. Meanwhile, most European nations are set to miss their carbon reduction pledges, too. Has it become impossible to internalize the true cost of climate change?
Not necessarily. A climate comeback story is possible. Whether it was seeing Californian forests turn to cinder or a deadly 106-degree heat spikes in Japan this summer, something is fundamentally changing in the way companies and citizens care about the issue. The price of climate change is no longer a concern for later, but one for right now. It is not the case that our grandchildren alone will bear the costs. We experience the effects, and have to pay for them, right here and right now — to the effect of hundreds of billions dollars, and affecting hundreds of millions of people.
Interestingly, business leaders acknowledge this: they put extreme weather events and failure to adapt to climate change at the top of the World Economic Forum Global Risk Report this year, and an alliance of CEOs leading major companies across the world recently supported regulation that would make them disclose climate-related financial risks.
These two factors — support from both private institutions and the public — should make policymakers more courageous in curbing emissions. They should take away the hesitation politicians had — and I have counted myself among them — in dealing with climate change. These leaders should implement three measures to make emitters pay the social cost of carbon.