Tax, Morals & The Solution

We should have the freedom to make our own choices about how we live.  With that freedom comes responsibility.  Responsibility to act fairly and morally.  How do you know whether you are acting with fairly and morally, and do you have that freedom?  It is a fundamental issue when it comes to what we should do about climate change.

I think that we should treat each other as we would treat our own family and how we would expect to be treated in return.  That means everyone, wherever they happen to live or were born, around the world or in what year, past, present or future.  Someone who was born in 1920 in the US or in 2045 in Bangladesh are equal to you, to me and to each other, and should be treated as such.

Your rights are important.  Should you consider the impact on anyone else who could be affected each time you do anything?  How can you possibly know what those impacts are?  You’ve got to be able to get on with your life.

Some would say that the law is there to guide you – as long as you act within the law, you are acting fairly and morally.  Maybe you could add to that the monetary and tax system – as long as you are making a balanced judgement as to whether your benefit is worth the cost of an action, then you are acting fairly.  You wouldn’t shaft someone on a deal, even if it was within the law, if it meant your relationship or reputation would be damaged.

So, with that as context, back to climate change.  I talked about changing the law in the last post.  If that is too restrictive, then how about changing the tax system instead?  How about a tax on the emissions at the point that greenhouse gases are emitted, in proportion to the future monetary and environmental cost?  A tax where the revenue from the tax is given out to everyone equally, as a universal allowance?  The cost of the tax would be added to transport fuel and to the cost of generating electricity.  It would be added at source if emissions are required to get at the fossil fuels in the first place, such as with tar sands in Canada.  The cost of the tax might then be passed down to consumers, who would then either gain overall (if they were careful in the impact of their lifestyle and purchases) or would lose out if they were more reckless.Tax-as-moral-issue

Sounds fair enough, do you think?  Difficulty would be that it would need to be adopted globally to work, otherwise you would just import your electricity or buy products from aboard where the tax was not in place.  To get around that in any particular country, such as the UK, you could add it as an import tax as well as a tax within the country borders.

Hmm, maybe.  Hang on, though, John – are you just suggesting this because you want the tax break?

Actually, no.  Whereas I think such a system would be a huge leap forward and if adopted widely would potentially get us out of the hole, I can’t see it coming in soon enough, if at all.

What should we do in the meantime?  Should we be able to do what we want within the law and within the current tax system?  If only a few nutters like me have stopped flying, it’s not worth making the sacrifice until the law or tax system changes.

Do you think?  Do you really think so?  Is it fair and moral, without a change in the law or tax system, for you to prioritise your own luxury and comfort over the basic needs of my children and grandchildren, and of people living in Bangladesh now and in the future?  What about our heritage, of the glorious abundance of beautiful flora and fauna, sadly diminishing fast?

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke

So who has the solution?

So who does have the solution to climate change? The answer is surprising.

Rather than try to find the person or people to blame and vilify about what we have done and continue to do to exacerbate the problem, might it be more fruitful to look for the group of people who are most able to get us out of the hole?

If we’re thinking about a technological solution, then it could be any one or more of a number of scientists, inventors or entrepreneurs.  How about a solar greenhouse?  Or farming practices that capture carbon dioxide?  Trouble is that the world is a big place with a lot of people in it – and it takes time for new technologies to roll-out, especially on an industrial scale as would need to be the case.
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Technology will probably be part of the solution, but probably not quick or comprehensive enough (too little, too late).  So who else?

We could look at who has the power to decide how much of the different greenhouse gases to emit.  Of course, that includes everybody, to a greater or lesser extent.  If you walk over to the light switch and switch it on or off, you are creating or stopping some emissions.  So we can all reduce the emissions for which we are responsible.

But let’s look at those who have the greatest sway on the level of emissions.

It is the way of the world that power is always concentrated among a tiny minority.  By applying the 80-20 rule three times, scientist Kevin Anderson showed that 40-60% of emissions are the responsibility of 1-5% of the global population. These super-rich have the keys to the solution for climate change.

But just who are these super-rich?

Turns out that in western terms, super-rich doesn’t seem that wealthy.  If you earn £30K or more per annum or fly once per year, it’s you.

It’s you.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke

Sorry Shelly and Beepy

I have had some communication with Shelly and with Beepy, the characters from the oil industry mentioned in the last post.

First of all, I would like to say sorry publically to the two of them, as I should have given them the opportunity to comment on the post before it went live.  They are friends whose trust I have abused which I regret.  Shelly likened the episode to tabloid journalism, and Beepy thought the post was inaccurate and biased.Mocking_Bird_Argument

I have changed some of the wording in the last post in light of their comments – to correctly attribute a quote, and also to make it more clear that the direction of my ire was towards the decision makers at the big oil companies, and not Shelly or Beepy themselves.  I will change it further once I understand from Beepy how the article was biased or inaccurate.

The main points that Shelly wanted to make in return was the economic reality of the stance that Shell have relates to the need to remain competitive in the market, and that among the oil companies Shell are leading as much as they can.  I will write a further post with more detail on their points.

I’d like to thank the two of them also, as I believe there is a more fundamental lesson for me here.

Earlier today, while walking along the canal tow-path near where I live,  I was thinking about Shelly’s comments.  I realised that my reason for writing the previous post, and for not checked it with them, was because I was looking for someone to blame for the hole that we’re in with our changing the climate: a hole that we seem intent on digging deeper.

I thought maybe I would write a further post on it.  In a few decades time, who will be held responsible?  The politicians for not regulating or providing the right incentives?  Big business for seemingly not having a conscience?  The media for misleading the public?  The public for being causing the ultimate demand for fossil fuels?  Activists for unintentionally antagonising and pushing people into entrenched positions?  Scientists for not giving us a straight answer?

Truth is that we are never going to solve the problem by looking for someone to blame, or taking the blame ourselves.  All of the above are very unfair statements to make.

Maybe a more productive direction is to ask a very different question: Who is in possession of the solution?

In all likelihood there is no one solution out there waiting to be found.  In fact there many possible solutions, and all of the scientists, activists, public, business, politicians and media are in possession of the clues to the combination lock that will take us forward.

Maybe my contribution to finding the answer is to help change the question.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke