Chicago Journal of International Law


While Eric A. Posner and David Weisbach advocate that climate change and poverty be tackled separately, the realiZaion that only a single cumulative carbon emissions budget is available to accommodate all nations through all centuries of the current millennium shows why efforts to confront these two challenges are inextricably linked Once carbon dioxide from fossil fuels reaches the atmosphere, most molecules remain for several centuries. Therefore, most additions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere are effectively net additions to a rapidly swelling total accumulation. Total cumulative atmospheric carbon correlates strongly with maximum surface temperature. It is, consequently, urgent to cease pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, so the use of fossil fuels by anyone must rapidly be reduced to near Zero. All viable methods for reducing the burning of fossil fuel depend on raising its price, through either permit trading or taxes. Raising the price of fossil fuel will drive many additional poor people into "energy poverty," making vital energy unaffordable for them. We can avoid being responsible for radical increases in poverty only if our efforts to make carbon fuels more expensive are accompanied by vigorous efforts to make non-carbon fuels less expensive. Feasible mechanisms to lower non-carbon prices while raising carbon prices are available now, and the US ought to cease its opposition to them. We can thereby exit the carbon era soon enough with far less human suffering.