A Plan For Cooling the Planet

Last summer, a small group of economists, energy company presidents, and policy specialists (including this author) met to forge a set of strategies to dramatically accelerate the Kyoto Process.

The strategies, embodied in a "World Energy Modernization Plan," are based on the scientifically unambiguous requirement that we cut fossil fuel emissions globally by about 70 percent in order to allow the climate to re-stabilize - an order of magnitude more than the levels specified in the Kyoto Protocol.

Any strategy that meaningfully addresses the climate crisis must begin with substantial emissions reductions in industrial nations and, subsequently, by all signatories to the Kyoto Protocol. Here are some key components of such a strategy:

  • Eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels in developed countries. In the US, those subsidies amount to about $21 billion a year; globally the figure has been estimated at $300 billion. The removal of subsidies would increase the price of oil and coal and, thus, discourage excessive consumption.
  • Provide equivalent subsidies for renewable energy technologies and for retraining displaced workers in the fossil fuel industries. Subsidies for renewable technologies would provide a significant incentive for oil companies to become developers of fuel cells, solar and photovoltaic sources, wind farms, etc.
  • Eliminate regulatory barriers to energy competition in industrialized countries, especially regulations that protect coal-burning utilities. This would create open energy markets that would compete based on cost, efficiency, and low-carbon content.
  • Focus on efficiency by incorporating Fossil Fuel Efficiency (FFE) and Renewable Content Standards into the Kyoto Protocol - for both industrial and developing nations. A progressively more stringent FFE standard would immediately create a worldwide market for renewable technologies, as their use would be the logical way for nations to increase their efficiency rates. That dramatically expanded market would provide the economies of scale to make climate-friendly energy sources economically competitive with coal and oil.
  • Fund technology transfers to developing countries through a World Energy Modernization Fund. A quarter-of-a-penny tax on international currency transactions could generate $200-$300 billion in revenues to finance the transfer of climate-friendly technologies to developing nations. Comparable levels of funding could also be achieved through a global carbon tax, taxes on airline tickets, or diversions of the portions of national military budgets currently used to secure oil supplies.
Contrary to the economically defensive posture of many nations and industries, a global transition to climate-friendly energy sources would substantially expand the stability, equity, and total wealth in the global economy. It would allow every national economy to develop without regard to atmospheric limits through the large-scale creation of jobs as well as through the eventual elimination of costs associated with importing and protecting oil and coal supplies.

For information on this approach, see www.heatisonline.org/solutions.cfm .

Back to "The Global Warming Crisis" by Ross Gelbspan


Ross Gelbspan is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Heat is On: The Climate Crisis, the Cover-up, the Prescription (Perseus, 1998).



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