Professor John Odell has received grant funding to travel to Europe to present his paper on “Our Alarming Climate Crisis Demands Border Adjustments Now.” Read his statement below:
“I am grateful for the Center’s generous grant, which defrayed part of the expense of a lecture trip I made to Geneva and Paris in June 2018. I had published a paper in February 2018 arguing that the global climate crisis has become an emergency and that the historic 2015 Paris agreement is now in danger of becoming a dead letter unless it is defended by forceful new action. I proposed that countries (like western Europe and Japan) that impose moderate to high taxes on fossil energy use should now extend the same treatment to all goods they import. They should however reduce these new import surcharges to reflect costs already borne by the imported goods due to carbon energy taxes and climate regulations imposed in the countries that produced the imported good. US fossil energy taxes are one-tenth to one-twentieth the levels in western Europe. If this proposal were enacted, US export industries would face new barriers which however would be eliminated if Washington raised carbon prices at home. The goal of the proposal is to stimulate lobbying by this organized special interest on behalf of more ambitious climate action in high-polluting countries like ours, to offset the organized minority that is currently blocking such action in Washington, even though majorities of Americans have been calling for solutions to global warming for some time. 62% of even Trump voters favor taxes or regulations or both.
I was able to speak to surprisingly large and expert audiences in both Geneva and Paris. In Paris, for instance, one of the fathers of the Paris climate agreement in the French government who is now a leader of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change attended and told me he agrees this debate is needed, even though it is contentious. Many economists are uncomfortable about anything that would raise trade barriers and risk retaliation. But the US government’s recent assaults on the exports of the EU, China, Canada, Mexico, and others on dubious legal grounds, seem to be eroding this resistance abroad.
Meanwhile, global carbon pollution and the global frequency of extreme storms, heat waves, and wildfires continue to increase, the ice keeps melting and the seas keep rising. Climate change continues to make more people sick and even die. Much evidence indicates that the pace of bad news is coming faster than earlier models had projected, and some evidence indicates global warming is accelerating. Worse yet, there is a lag of 3 to 5 decades between the carbon pollution and the last of the climate effects that result from it. So if the world stopped cold tonight, our children and grandchildren would still be feeling harms from past pollution into the 2060s. And the world is not going to stop tonight. This is an emergency and our leaders are doing far too little to address it. On any given day, it seems like a slow-moving crisis, but it is the very concrete lives of people living today whom we know and love.”