Al Gore’s 24 Hours of Climate Reality, an online video/guest panel that examines how climate change is costing billions around the globe, kicked off today with segments covering North America and South America.
The two-day tour of climate change disasters across the planet continues on Wednesday as the program moves west through the major world regions.
Gore and invited experts sound a recurring theme: We must put a price on carbon pollution, they say, so the polluters can pay for the damage they’re doing. A price on carbon also would help slow the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the earth to heat up, triggering massive ice melts, rising and warming oceans and supercharged storms.
Right now, we are treating the atmosphere “like a global sewer,” Gore said, by allowing power plants and businesses to load up the air with carbon pollution. And as long as they are allowed to pollute without consequences, climate change-triggered floods, droughts and superstorms will continue to batter people and economies.
Gore, founder of the Climate Reality Project, proposes that leading nations install a common carbon market, which many experts believe would create a “market-based” mechanism to effectively de-escalate carbon pollution. In a carbon market, carbon acquires a “price” and is traded, creating an incentive for polluters to lower operating costs by lowering their carbon emissions. Carbon for polluters, in this plan, becomes a cost of doing business, which is different from the current situation in which atmospheric carbon pollution carries no cost.
Some experts believe that a carbon market might not bring down carbon emissions fast enough. They would rather see direct fees and taxes on carbon pollution. The downside with carbon taxes, however, is that these solutions are politically thorny.
One guest on the opening hour of the program, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, proposed a multi-pronged approach that would include both setting a stable price on carbon to create a carbon market, and also political action to remove government subsidies for fossil fuels.
Recognizing that those two solutions are politically charged, the World Bank plan also calls for three approaches that encounter less resistance: Improving access to green energy like solar and wind power; building cleaning energy efficient cities; and moving to “climate smart” agriculture. These action are already underway, and can be promoted to reduce fuel consumption (and therefore pollution) and recover arable land (increasing community resilience when floods and droughts hits).
The message from both Kim and Gore, doing nothing is not an option, because it taking a terrible human and economic toll on modern civilization.