Twice before, humanity has mitigated severe global environmental threats. In both cases we did this not with ‘cap and trade’ systems, taxes, or offsets, but with bans
Time is running out to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and avoid catastrophic climate change. The 2018 special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “suggests a remaining budget of about 420 Gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 for a two-thirds chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C.” The clock on this so-called remaining carbon budget started ticking at the beginning of 2018. Despite this stark warning, the world keeps emitting over 40 Gt of CO2 per year. In other words, the policy instruments that are currently being used across the globe to reduce CO2 emissions aren’t working. It is therefore time to ban fossil fuels.
Since we have already drawn down over 120 Gt of CO2 from this carbon budget, we have now less than 300 Gt left. Combining the proved fossil fuel reserves reported in British Petroleum’s Statistical Review of World Energy with CO2 emission factors from the IPCC yields 3,600 Gt of CO2 emissions. This means that we can only afford to burn one twelfth of the fossil fuels we have already found. And this does not account for any greenhouse gas emissions from the ongoing melting of permafrost. The Arctic region alone is estimated to have 1,500 Gt of carbon stored in its soils, some of which is already being converted to CO2 by microbes and released into the atmosphere.