The TSAP is well aware that our planet is in grave danger, and has been for quite some time now. We face several serious long term problems: climate change, deforestation/desertification, loss of biodiversity, overharvesting, energy crises, and of course pollution of many kinds. Polar ice caps are melting. Rainforests have been shrinking by 50 acres per minute. Numerous species are going extinct every year. Soil is eroding rapidly. Food shortages have occurred in several countries in recent years. Weather has been getting crazier each year, most likely due to climate change. We have had numerous wildfires, floods followed by long periods of drought, and a "storm of the century" at least once a year for the past few years. We need look no further than Superstorm Sandy (which was caused or at least enhanced by global warming) to see how crazy our weather has become lately.
None of this is an accident of course. These problems are man-made, and their solutions must also begin and end with humans. We cannot afford to sit idly by any longer, lest we face hell and high water in the not-too-distant future. Our unsustainable scorched-earth policy towards the planet absolutely has to end. Yesterday.
The leading climate scientists dare not mince words about what needs to be done. They may not always agree on the details of how to get there, but the gist of it is nonetheless crystal clear. We need to reduce the CO2 levels in the atmosphere to 350 ppm or less ASAP or else face catastrophic global cooking (it's not just "warming" anymore), and to do so we need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 90% by 2030. That means that within 15 years we will have to almost completely "decarbonize" our economy, or risk the collapse of civilization or even mass extinction in the coming decades. Clearly, that's NOT something to play Russian roulette with! And because we have waited so long to start doing so, we need to front-load such a decrease in GHG emissions with a roughly 80% reduction by 2020. Indeed, the best kind of "carbon sequestration" of all is to simply leave fossil fuels in the ground.
That's why the TSAP has put together a plan to phase-out fossil fuels completely by 2030, known as the Great American Phase-Out. Fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) all produce the greenhouse gas CO2, and the first two produce lots of other nasty pollutants as well. Natural gas (methane) is itself a potent greenhouse gas. And these resources are nonrenewable and will eventually run out, so our dependence on them is inherently unsustainable. And here are the steps we need to take to phase them out intelligently:
- Create a carbon tax on all fossil fuels in which all revenues are returned directly to the people in equal amounts, a la Carbonomics. We absolutely must put a price on carbon. Start it at $10/ton for the first year, and sharply increase it every year thereafter, until the CO2 levels are below 350 ppm.
- Go full steam ahead with truly renewable energy technologies (solar, wind, water, geothermal, etc.), increase funding for research, and encourage their widespread adoption via feed-in tariffs.
- Don't phase out nuclear power until after fossil fuels are completely phased out.
- Increase public transportation dramatically, and make all new vehicles electric starting in 2020 or even earlier. In the meantime, improve the way fuel economy standards are done, via the classic "feebate" mechanism.
- Increase the use of responsible biofuels to help tide us over. These include algae fuel, sugarcane ethanol, and cellulosic ethanol. Corn ethanol is wasteful and should be jettisoned ASAP--unless it's produced via permaculture, of course.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle, of course--in that order. But whatever trash is left, let's turn it into oil via thermal depolymerization.
- Work on solving the energy storage problem, for example using hydrogen and/or ammonia as a storage medium and alternative fuel.
- Legalize industrial hemp (at the very least) to replace many unsustainable materials.
- Levy ecological taxes (similar to vice taxes) on all resource depletion and pollution, and/or alternatively use a cap-auction-trade system for basic resources.
- Phase-out industrial agriculture (which is fossil-fuel intensive) for more sustainable methods, especially regenerative organic farming (which actually puts carbon back in the ground).
- Improve the efficiency of our current infrastructure, so as to require less energy overall.
- Ban fracking immediately, as it does more harm than good.
- Craft a better version of the Kyoto treaty, since the current one is clearly a joke.
- If for some reason we still need natural gas beyond 2030, then phase it out no later than 2050.
- Above all, do NOT squander fossil fuels--we still need them to build the infrastructure and materials needed to get us to a 100% clean energy future. And in the event of a planetary emergency (aside from climate cataclysm) in the future, we need to keep them as a sort of "energy savings account".
- Move toward fair trade instead of "free trade", which really isn't "free" at all.
- Set not just a minimum wage (at least $10/hour), but also a maximum wage, especially for corporate executives. Alternatively, raise the top marginal tax rate to at least 50% on each dollar above the first million, with no loopholes this time. We should focus on sharing the pie rather than making it bigger.
- Shorten the standard workweek to 20-30 hours instead of 40, eventually moving towards Buckminster Fuller's vision of no one having to "work for a living" unless they truly want to.
- Implement a guaranteed basic income for everyone, of at least several thousand per year.
- Stop obsessing over GDP as a measure of economic well-being. Instead, separate it into a cost account and a benefit account, or use alternative measures such as Genuine Progress Indicator.
- Stabilize (and eventually shrink) the population by reducing immigration to match emigration, and encouraging people to voluntarily have fewer kids. The goal should be a TFR of 1.5 or so, achieved without coercion.
- Remove all of our Big Wetiko villainaire rulers (and their sycophantic lackeys) from power yesterday, and replace them all with true progressives, most of whom being Women. Buckminster Fuller had the right idea.
- End the kyriarchy completely, and replace the "dominator" model with the "partnership" model.
- Most importantly, nationalize the privately-owned FERAL Reserve into a public national bank that creates interest-free money, phase out the practice of charging interest (aka usury) in general, and have debt jubilees every 50 years or so. That will remove the primary root cause of our collective addiction to growth.
- Let the planetary healing begin!
A ROADMAP TO NOWHERE? WELL, NOT EXACTLY
Professor Mark Z. Jacobson's ambitious plan for 100% renewable energy (specifically, wind, water, and solar exclusively) by 2050 has come under fire lately from several critics. The biggest critics have been Mike Conley and Tim Maloney the authors of the e-book "Roadmap to Nowhere" which attempts to debunk Jacobson's thesis. This attempted rebuttal basically does so by seriously low-balling the very real costs and safety concerns of nuclear power (far more so than Jacobson perhaps low-balls the cost of renewables) while making some rather pessimistic assumptions about the costs and downsides of wind, water, and solar. And while Jacobson's analysis does indeed have some significant flaws, most notably the lack of any mention of geothermal power and disregard of even third generation biofuels such as algae, those flaws are also present in Conley and Maloney's attempted rebuttal, which also disregards these as well. And while neither give nearly enough weight to efficiency and conservation, the latter doesn't even bother to give any weight to them at all. And of course neither makes any mention of the "elephant in the Volkswagen", namely overpopulation. Overall, though, Jacobson's idea makes far more sense, albeit with some nuance. Renewables just keep on exceeding expectations as they continue to grow exponentially, while both nuclear and fossil fuels continue to disappoint.