05 October 2014

A Damn Good Idea - Let's Cancel Debt and Get to Work on Climate Change

The blog-o-sphere is still filled with rants by lazy or ignorant bloggers and commenters spewing their misunderstandings of the science (and economics) of climate change along with evidence of their complete unwillingness to triangulate the research and check some facts on their own. Instead they just steal sound bites from the primo denier blogs while accusing anyone who cares about the world of being in on the grand deception.

(Sheesh, how long will it take for deniers to get it through their thick skulls that the climate is changing? No, Ross, the warming didn't stop 17.85 years ago ... the warming has continued and the oceans have taken up the extra heat, which means that the heat hasn't been registering as an increase in global average temperature at the Earth's surface.)

So it is a great gift and a relief when something comes into my inbox that is a fabulously good idea! 

In Cancel developing countries' debt in exchange for climate change action, The Guardian asks "As the effects of climate change worsen and developing countries bear the brunt, could debt relief be a way to finance climate action?"

We had the Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism, but its true success has been questioned because it relied on carbon offsets. We have the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Green Climate Fund, but aside from France (merci, vous autres!), nations are not racing to fill its coffers  to help developing nations with the costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and there are concerns about involving private sector financing.  

But what if we all just recognized the climate change emergency we're in, said "Holy shit!" and decided we'd all better get on with doing things differently? What if we all just decreed that all debt was forgiven -- bam! With one caveat: that any and all existing debt repayment funds would have to be redirected and applied to helping that nation, state or province, town / city / village, or household get to zero carbon emissions as rapidly as possible. 

Oh sure, I know, that's pie in the sky mixed with a complete ignorance (at least I admit mine) of how the economy makes any sense at all. (Hey, if economist Ross McKitrick can keep passing himself off as some sort of expert on climate change, then I have the right to talk economics.) But here's the thing. The economy is going to tank anyway if we don't head it toward zero carbon and fast.

Civilization, which is based on the steady food production that agriculture gives us, which is based on the stable climate we've had over the last 10,000 years or so, is going to crumble around us. 

At the September 23, 2014 UN Climate Summit in New York City, IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri said, "The longer we wait the higher the risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts: food and water shortages, increased poverty, forced migrations that could increase the risk of violent conflict, extreme droughts and floods, the collapse of ice sheets that flood our coastal cities - and a steady rise in our death toll, especially among the world's poorest."

Now I know that people such as Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, don't believe that any of these impacts will affect them (and apparently these people don't care if these impacts hit their children and grandchildren). If they do admit the existence of climate change to themselves, you just know they're adding, "But I'm not poor, so no problemo!"

But the really crazy part is that these people hide behind economics when they don't understand the economic realities of mitigating climate change. Pachauri also said, "We are told that limiting climate change will be too expensive. It will not. But wait until you get the bill for inaction. There are costs of taking action – but they are nothing compared to the cost of inaction."

If we have a giant jubilee debt forgiveness campaign and let everyone direct their money toward retrofitting the world for the transformation to zero carbon, no one will be able to say that safeguarding the future is too expensive.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?