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Pope decrees full Carbon Price

Pope Francis

A full Carbon Price (Carbon Tax) on greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution is required to stop GHG pollution that is killing the Biosphere and threatening Humanity. Pope Francis in his 2015 Encyclical Letter “Laudato si” demands that a “fully borne” Carbon Price be emplaced on greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in order to prevent “millions of premature deaths”.

Armed with this authoritative moral advice, the billions of Humanity must save themselves and the Biosphere by demanding that the polluters must pay in full by a Wealth Tax (for historical GHG pollution) and a Carbon Tax (for ongoing GHG pollution).

Pope Francis, quoting Pope Benedict XVI, essentially advocates Carbon Pricing in Section 195 of his 2015 encyclical “Laudato si”: ‘Yet only when the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations,’ can those [economic] actions be considered ethical” [1].

This what Pope Francis said in context: “The principle of the maximization of profits, frequently isolated from other considerations, reflects a misunderstanding of the very concept of the economy. As long as production is increased, little concern is given to whether it is at the cost of future resources or the health of the environment; as long as the clearing of a forest increases production, no one calculates the losses entailed in the desertification of the land, the harm done to biodiversity, or the increased pollution. In a word, businesses profit by calculating and paying only a fraction of the costs involved. ‘Yet only when the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations,’ [Benedict XVI] can those actions be considered ethical. An instrumental way of reasoning, which provides a purely static analysis of realities in the service of present needs, is at work whether resources are allocated by the market or by state central planning” (Section 195, [1]). 

And this is what Pope Benedict XVI said in context in his Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (2009): “This responsibility is a global one, for it is concerned not just with energy but with the whole of creation, which must not be bequeathed to future generations depleted of its resources. Human beings legitimately exercise a responsible stewardship over nature, in order to protect it, to enjoy its fruits and to cultivate it in new ways, with the assistance of advanced technologies, so that it can worthily accommodate and feed the world's population. On this earth there is room for everyone: here the entire human family must find the resources to live with dignity, through the help of nature itself — God's gift to his children — and through hard work and creativity. At the same time we must recognize our grave duty to hand the earth on to future generations in such a condition that they too can worthily inhabit it and continue to cultivate it.

This means being committed to making joint decisions “after pondering responsibly the road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying”[120]. Let us hope that the international community and individual governments will succeed in countering harmful ways of treating the environment. It is likewise incumbent upon the competent authorities to make every effort to ensure that the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations: the protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate obliges all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet [121]. One of the greatest challenges facing the economy is to achieve the most efficient use — not abuse — of natural resources, based on a realization that the notion of “efficiency” is not value-free” (Section 50, [2]).

Climate change economist Dr. Chris Hope from 90-Nobel–Laureate University of Cambridge has estimated a damage-related Carbon Price of US$150-$250 per tonne CO2-e (CO2-equivalent) depending on location [3]. Based on a Carbon Price of $100 per tonne CO2-e, the World now has a Carbon Debt (in US dollars) from historical CO2 pollution (mostly from European countries) of $270 trillion that is increasing at $10 trillion each year, and Australia (a world leader in annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution) has a Carbon Debt of $5.6 trillion that is increasing at $300 billion per year (increasing at about $30,000 each year per head for under-30 year old Australians) [4]. Based on a Carbon Price of $200 per tonne CO2-e [3], the World now has a Carbon Debt (in US dollars) of $540 trillion that is increasing at $20 trillion each year and Australia has a Carbon Debt of $11 trillion that is increasing at $600 billion per year (increasing at about $60,000 each year per head for under-30 year old Australians) [4].

Now Carbon Debt - that reflects what Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI call “the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources” [1, 2] – differs from Government Debt in that Carbon Debt is inescapable. Thus Government Debt (e.g. the Greek Government Debt) can be forgiven or otherwise evaded by defaulting or printing money but Carbon Debt will inescapably have to be paid by future generations – man-made global warming will displace and kill literally billions of people unless we create forests, sea walls, hurricane shelters, irrigation systems, desalination plants, hydroponic farms, renewable energy systems, storm-resistant housing, storm shelters, heat wave refuges, and atmosphere carbon dioxide (CO2) draw-down systems. Indeed some climate change scientists have predicted that as few as 0.5 billion people might survive this century if man-made global warming is not requisitely addressed, these estimates translating to a climate genocide involving the deaths of 10 billion people this century, this including roughly twice the present population of particular mainly non-European groups, specifically 6 billion under-5 year old infants, 3 billion Muslims in a terminal Muslim Holocaust, 2 billion Indians, 1.3 billion non-Arab Africans, 0.5 billion Bengalis, 0.3 billion Pakistanis and 0.3 billion Bangladeshis [5, 6].

Indeed Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato si “ (“Praise be to You”) has quite exceptionally gone further than any other major leader by alluding to the “premature deaths” – also epidemiologically known as untimely deaths, avoidable deaths, excess deaths, avoidable mortality, excess mortality, deaths that need not have happened [7] – that are occasioned by pollution or poverty: “ 20. Some forms of pollution are part of people's daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths … 48. The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation… The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor, in conflicts sparked by the shortage of resources, and in any number of other problems which are insufficiently represented on global agendas” (sections 20 and 48, [1]).

Pope Francis did not put figures on premature deaths from poverty or pollution in his 246-section encyclical letter “Laudato si”, but the numbers are readily available . Thus UN Population Division data [8] enable one to calculate that 17 million people die avoidably (prematurely) each year (half of them children) due to poverty in the Developing World (minus China) [7]. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 7 million people die from the effects of pollution each year [9].

The DARA 2012 Report commissioned by 20 countries states: “This report estimates that climate change causes 400,000 deaths on average each year today, mainly due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries. Our present carbon-intensive energy system and related activities cause an estimates 4.5 million deaths each year linked to air pollution , hazardous occupations and cancer. Climate changed caused economic losses estimated close to 1% of global GDP for the year 2010, or 700 billion dollars (2010, PPP)...

The carbon-intensive economy cost the world another 0.7% of GDP in that year, independent of any climate change losses. Together, carbon economy- and climate change-related losses amounted to over 1.2 trillion dollars. The world is already committed to a substantial increase in global temperatures – at least another 0.5oC (1oF) due to a combination of the inertia of the world’s oceans, the slow response of the carbon cycle to reduced CO2 emission and limitation on how fast emissions can actually be reduced. The world economy therefore faces an increase in pressures that are estimated to lead to more than a doubling in the costs of climate change by 2030 to an estimated 2.5% of global GDP. Carbon economy costs also increase over this same period so that global GDP in 2030 is estimated to be well over 3% lower than it would have been in the absence of climate change and harmful carbon-intensive energy practices. Continuing today’s patterns of carbon-intensive energy use is estimated, together with climate change, to cause 5 million deaths per year by 2030, close to 700,000 of which would be due to climate change. This implies that a combined climate-carbon crisis is estimated to claim 100 million lives between now and the end of the next decade. A significant share of the global population would be directly affected by inaction on climate change” [10, 11].

Some conservative, effective climate change denialist Catholic and non-Catholic politicians and journalists have chided the Pope for straying from theology into the arena of politics , science and economics but their complaint is disingenuous, dishonest and fatuous. Pope Francis’ job is to promote human happiness and morality and his “Laudato si” encyclical, informed by the overwhelming scientific consensus, chides a selfish and blinkered world for endangering the biosphere and the lives of billions through environment-destroying greed.

By way of example of Catholic politicians flagrantly ignoring and opposing Pope Francis’ fiat on man-made climate change, climate criminal Australia with a Catholic Prime Minister (Tony Abbott) and a Catholic Leader of the Opposition (Bill Shorten) is a world leader in annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution with a Domestic plus Exported annual per capita GHG pollution of 89 tonnes CO2-e per person per year as compared to Bangladesh’s 0.9 and a world average of about 7 [5]. Australia has an extreme right wing Liberal Party-National Party Coalition Government headed by Catholic Tony Abbott and a right-wing Opposition Australian Labor Party lead by Catholic Bill Shorten. The pro-coal, pro-gas, pro-iron ore, climate criminal Labor Opposition and the pro-coal, pro-gas, pro-iron ore climate criminal Coalition (aka COALition) Government have the same climate criminal policy of unlimited coal, gas and iron ore exports that will presently see Australia exceed by a factor of three (3) the whole world’s Terminal Carbon Budget that must not be exceeded if we are to have a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2C temperature rise [12]. Indeed Australia used up its “fair share” of the world’s Terminal Carbon Budget in 2011 and the whole World has only 3 years to go [13, 14].

The pro-renewable energy Catholic Australian Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and the Australian Labor Party want a Cap-and-Trade Emissions Trading Scheme ( ETS)-based Carbon Price of circa $7 per tonne CO2-e and the anti-renewable energy and effective climate change denialist Catholic Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott was elected in part on the promise of “No Carbon Tax” i.e. a Carbon Price of $0 per tonne CO2-e. Yet the Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, is demanding that the cost of pollution should be “fully borne” to save “millions of premature deaths” and this position translates to a Carbon Price of about $200 per tonne CO2-e [3].

Some conservative, effective climate change denialist Catholic and non-Catholic politicians and journalists have chided the Pope for straying from theology into the arena of politics , science and economics but their complaint is disingenuous, dishonest and fatuous.
This clear rejection by both Catholic Australian Opposition Leader Shorten and Catholic Australian Prime Minister Abbott of Pope Francis’ “Laudato si” injunction that the cost of pollution should be “fully borne” to prevent “millions of premature deaths” is not just a venal sin like telling a fib, using a condom or eating lamb chops on` Friday - it is a mortal sin of immense proportions involving complicity in the deaths of millions each year and ultimately of billions , for as Pope Francis says in “Laudato si”: “Exposure to atmospheric pollutants… causes millions of premature deaths … The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor” (sections 20 and 48, [1]).

Summary

Pope Francis, quoting Pope Benedict XVI, essentially advocates Carbon Pricing in Section 195 of his 2015 encyclical “Laudato si”: “”Yet only when the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations,” can those [economic] actions be considered ethical” [1].

Pope Francis is further remarkable among world leaders in recognizing the concept of social policies causing “premature deaths” (untimely deaths, avoidable deaths, excess deaths, avoidable mortality, excess mortality, deaths that need not have happened [7]) , stating in “Laudato si”: “Exposure to atmospheric pollutants… causes millions of premature deaths … The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor” (sections 20 and 48, [1]).

It is increasingly unlikely that we will avoid a global warming catastrophe this century [15, 16]. Nevertheless, all decent people who care for their children, future generations, Humanity and the Biosphere are obliged to do everything they can to ensure that the future is “less bad” for our children and future generations. “Doing everything they can” may mean Green tariffs, International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutions, International Court of Justice (ICJ) litigations, and Boycotts, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) against climate criminal people, politicians, parties, companies, corporations and countries disproportionately involved in the worsening climate genocide [14].

However fundamental to tackling climate change is imposition on polluters of a damage–related Carbon Price [4] as advocated by both Pope Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI. Greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution will only stop when we make the polluters pay. The One Percenters have half the wealth of the world and this has been essentially acquired by GHG pollution – this huge historical Carbon Debt can be obtained by an appropriate Wealth Tax [17]. Ongoing GHG pollution must stop if we are to return atmospheric CO2 concentration to a safe 300 ppm CO2 from the present dangerous and damaging 400 ppm CO2 (as advocated by numerous scientists [18]) - and this means that the full, damage-related cost of ongoing GHG pollution must be “fully borne” by the polluters. A full Carbon Price on greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution is required to stop GHG pollution that is killing the Biosphere and threatening Humanity. 

References

  1. Pope Francis , Encyclical Letter “Laudato si”, 2015: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
  2. Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter “Caritas in Veritate”, 29 June 2009.
  3. Dr. Chris Hope, “How high should climate change taxes be?”, Working Paper Series, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, 9.2011.
  4. “Carbon Debt Carbon Credit”.
  5. “Climate Genocide”.
  6. Gideon Polya, “Germany's Per Capita Government Debt Plus Carbon Debt Greatly Exceeds Greece's”, Countercurrents, 8 July, 2015.
  7. Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” that includes a history of every country from Neolithic times and is now available for free perusal on the web.
  8. UN Population Division.
  9. World Health Organization (WHO), “7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution” .
  10. DARA, “Climate Vulnerability Monitor. A guide to the cold calculus of a hot planet”, 2012, Executive Summary pp2-3 .
  11. DARA report quoted by Reuters, ”100 mln to die by 2030 if world fails to act on climate”, 28 September 2012.
  12. Gideon Polya, “Australia 's Huge Coal, Gas & Iron Ore Exports Threaten Planet”, Countercurrents, 15 May 2012 .
  13. "Years left to zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to 2010" .
  14. Gideon Polya, “25 Ways World-Leading Climate Criminal Australia Threatens Planet And Invites Boycotts, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)”, Countercurrents, 6 June, 2015.
  15. “Are we doomed?” .
  16. "Too late to avoid global warming catastrophe" .
  17. Gideon Polya, “4 % Annual Global Wealth Tax To Stop The 17 Million Deaths Annually”, Countercurrents, 27 June, 2014 .
  18. “300-org – return atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppm CO2” .

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