Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Prime minister Justin Trudeau should call for a worldwide referendum on global carbon fee-and-dividend at the COP21 climate change conference in Paris.
The conference will start on Nov. 30 and will last until Dec. 11.
The general consensus is that, while it will make some progress, it won't make the breakthrough we need.
A worldwide referendum on carbon fee-and-dividend would be that breakthrough.
James Hansen, the man who many consider the dean of climate scientists, has called for carbon fee-and-dividend many years and with some success.
Carbon fee-and-dividend is elegantly simple – charge a fee on fossil fuels at source, similar to a carbon tax. Unlike a typical carbon tax, however, the money would not go into general government revenue but be distributed in equal dividends to everyone.
For those on the right, it's a small government solution. Most governments already collect some kind of tax or royalty from fossil fuel production, and so little additional bureaucracy would be needed to collect the fee. Similarly, people would only need to prove that they are human beings and of a certain age to collect their dividends, meaning minimal bureaucracy on the distribution side as well.
For those on the left, carbon fee-and-dividend would tend to re-distribute income, helping to correct the world’s growing economic inequality. According to Citizens' Climate Lobby – Canada, two-thirds of people would receive more in dividends than they would spend in fossil fuel fees. The bottom 20 per cent of earners could expect to receive 150 per cent more than they would pay.
Many economists agree that carbon fee-and-dividend would be our most powerful tool in dealing with climate change. In fact, it is hard to imagine a successful approach that does not include carbon fee-and-dividend as its central pillar.
Here are some ballpark figures.
According to Wikipedia, the world produces about 30 billion tonnes per year of carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels. A fossil fuel fee set at the same level of B.C.'s carbon tax of $30 per tonne of carbon dioxide would therefore raise about $900 billion per year. Assuming that the dividends would only go to adults, and that 5 billion of the 7 billion people in the world are over the age of 18, then that would mean every adult human being on the planet would get a dividend of about $180 per year.
Carbon fee-and-dividend might be our most powerful tool, but to have a hope of being effective it would need to be global.
National programs, even if they involve major emitters such as the United States or China, are simply not going to cut it.
Put a fee on fossil fuel use in one jurisdiction and certain industries will move to another. If the fee rises high enough, there would be the danger of creating a black market for untaxed oil and coal. Both outcomes could be minimized by global carbon fee-and-dividend.
Going global implies going through the United Nations. Implementing global carbon fee-and-dividend would justify and require reforming that organization. A good place to start might be by creating a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.
Here in Canada, as in many other nations around the world, we sometimes put important questions to the people in a referendum. One example would be the referendum on transit held last spring in B.C.'s Lower Mainland.
Organizing a worldwide referendum on carbon fee-and-dividend would be a difficult but not impossible task. The United Nations has organized successful votes in war-ravaged locations such as Kampuchea and East Timor.
Human-caused climate change is a global problem and requires global solutions. A worldwide referendum on global carbon fee-and-dividend would be a good next step, and Canada should lead the way.
– Author Keith McNeill is the editor of the award-winning Clearwater Times newspaper. Last spring, McNeill, age 65, and his friend, Jean Nelson, age 81, cycled from Toronto to Ottawa to promote an online petition calling for a Canada-wide referendum on carbon fee-and-dividend.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

This video by an American politician is worth watching. It's basically about Hansen's fee-and-dividend proposal, but he uses the term "carbon rebate" rather than "carbon tax" - focussing on the dividend side of the proposal. His comparison of the rebate cheque with the deniers' lump of coal is particularly effective. A fee-and-dividend system would have to be global to have much effect, but national systems would be a good place to start

Monday, February 17, 2014

Global carbon tax petition breaks 100

My global carbon tax petition finally broke 100 yesterday, with 10 new names. Five of them are from Belgium, one from Netherlands, and so I think they're connected. The first to sign yesterday was a Mrs. Christina Lambrecht from Belgium. She seems to be an expert on Basic Income, which means this idea would appeal to her.

A few days ago I put a comment about my petition on a posting on the Basic Income News website. Soon after that a Dr. Karl Widerquist signed. He also seems to be a Basic Income expert. So maybe things are starting to snowball a bit.

The petition is at

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sulphur dioxide safety net wouldn't work

Gwynne Dyer has posted a column talking about how work by researchers at Reading University have shown that trying to control global warming by injecting sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere would lead to a 30 percent decline in rainfall in most of the tropics.

While we might need geo-engineering techniques as stopgap measures, we are extremely unlikely to achieve anything without addressing the root of the problem. Climate scientist James Hansen has called for a global carbon tax with the proceeds to be distributed to all, a proposal he calls fee-and-dividend. I have posted a petition based on his proposal on Care2. You can view the petition (and hopefully put your name on it) at

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Climate change denial as Russian roulette

Here's a comment I just posted in Care2 under the article:

The question of climate change comes down to probabilities and balancing risks versus benefits. My understanding of the IPCC predictions is there is a 2/3 chance that things will get very bad by the end of this century. The far end of the bell curve is a one-in-six chance of conditions becoming catastrophic.

The climate change deniers seem to focus on the near end of the curve, the one-in-six chance that things won't be too bad after all. A gun with one empty chamber and five bullets is not very good odds if you're going to play Russian roulette.

Climate scientist James Hansen has called for a global carbon tax with the proceeds to be distributed to everyone (he calls it fee-and-dividend). I have posted a petition calling for a worldwide referendum on such a global carbon tax on Care2. You can view it and,hopefully, put your name to it, at

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

IPCC underestimating extreme climate change

I came across an interesting item recently about Martin Weitzman, a Harvard economist who specializes in the economics of catastrophes, among other things.

According to Weitzman, the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) has grossly underestimated the severity of the low probability alternatives in its climate forecasts.

IPCC is predicting that doubling the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could yield temperature increases of 3.5F (2 C) to 8F (4.5 C) by the end of this century, with a best guess of about 5.5F (3 C). That's with a two-thirds probability – the peak of the bell curve.

That's scarey enough, but when we look at the tails of the bell curve, things get even more disconcerting.

According to Weitzman, there is a five per cent probability of warming greater than 18F (10 C) by the end of this century and a one per cent probability of warming greater than 36F (20 C).
Temperature increases in those ranges would render much of the Earth's surface uninhabitable by human beings.

Climate scientists James Hansen has called for a global carbon tax to control global warming, with the proceeds distributed to everyone as a social dividend or basic income grant.

I have posted a petition on Care2 calling for a worldwide referendum on such a carbon tax. You can view the petition (and hopefully sign it) at