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$10 Trillion Annual Carbon Debt Increase For Young People On A Threatened Planet

By Dr Gideon Polya

08 July, 2014

Humanity and the Biosphere are increasingly threatened by man-made global warming but climate change inaction means that it may  soon be too late to act to prevent catastrophic  global warming. This climate change inaction is associated with a $10 trillion annual increase in the Carbon Debt for young people and future generations. Young people must urgently reclaim their future from the terracidal, climate criminal One Percenters who are destroying the planet.

NASA's Dr James Hansen (Adjunct Professor at 101-Nobel-Laureate Columbia University) has provided a nation-based breakdown of global responsibility for fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution between 1751 and 2006 as a percentage (%) of the Historical Carbon  Debt (1751-2006) of 346 billion tonnes C  [1].

A  US dollar value can be placed on that Carbon Debt from the requisite Carbon Price for effective climate change action, and equivalent to  the actual damage caused, of $150 per tonne CO2 for the EU (and $250 per tonne CO2 for the US), as estimated by Dr Chris Hope from 90-Nobel-Laureate Cambridge University [2].

Thus  $150 per tonne CO2 x 346 billion tonnes C x 3.7 tonne CO2 per tonne C = $192 trillion or about 2.3 times the World's GDP.

Revised annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution is 64 billion tonnes CO2-e (CO2-equivalent, including other GHGs like methane, CH4) and thus Carbon Debt for future generations is increasing  globally each year by $150 per tonne CO2-e x 0.064 trillion tonnes CO2-e = $9.6 trillion i.e. by about $10 trillion annually.

Australia (population 24 million) is one of the worst annual per capita GHG polluters. Australia's annual Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution is about 2 billion tonnes CO2-e [3], this giving an Australian annual  per capita GHG pollution of 83 tonnes CO2-e per person per year as compared to the World average of 9 tonnes CO2-e per person per year and Bangladesh's 0.9 tonnes CO2-e per person per year [4].

However the pro-fossil fuels, pro-pollution, anti-science, effective climate change denialist Australian Coalition Government opposes a Carbon Tax and permits free, unlimited GHG pollution of the one common  atmosphere and ocean of all countries and all peoples at a Carbon Tax rate of $0 (zero) per tonne CO2-e. The similarly pro-coal, pro-gas and  neoliberal previous Australian Labor Government claimed before the September 2013 elections that it had “terminated” its $25 per tonne CO2-e Carbon Tax by fast-tracking to  an EU-compatible  Carbon Trading-based Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)  with a derisory Carbon Price of $6 per tonne CO2-e (it must be noted that numerous science-informed climate economists, climate scientists and climate activists variously argue that a transparent Carbon Tax is needed rather than  Carbon Trading, and that the ETS approach is empirically ineffective, accordingly counterproductive, susceptible to dodgy market manipulation, and inherently fraudulent  through particular governments selling licence to pollute the one common atmosphere and ocean of all peoples and all countries) [5].

Accordingly, the Australian Coalition Government's climate change inaction is running up a Carbon Debt of $150 per tonne CO2-e x 2 billion tonnes CO2-e per year = $300 billion per year to be paid by future generations. This is not just climate criminality but also climate injustice and intergenerational injustice [6].

Young Australians and all those who care for young people, future generations, Humanity, and the Biosphere  will utterly reject the egregious theft and mendacity of the neoliberal Australian Coalition Government,  vote 1 Green and put the Coalition last. Indeed the World will not indefinitely tolerate Australia 's ecocidal, terracidal, climate genocidal, dog-in-the-manger greed.

This is intolerably gargantuan  intergenerational wealth transfer, climate injustice,  and intergenerational inequity [6] on top of the realities  that the politically dominant  One Percenters collectively own about half the wealth of the world [7] and that this inequity is linked to 17 million avoidable deaths from deprivation each year [8].

Until the last century the atmospheric  CO2 concentration  had been no higher than about 300 parts per million (ppm) for about 1 million years [3].  Many climate scientists, biological scientists  and science-informed climate activists say that for a safe planet for all peoples and all species we must urgently return atmospheric CO2 to 300 ppm CO2 from the current damaging and dangerous 400 ppm CO2 [9].  With  700 billion tonnes  of CO2 in the atmosphere, returning the  atmospheric CO2 concentration to 300 ppm  from the current 400 ppm involves removing 0.25 x 700 = 175 billion tonnes CO2 from the atmosphere.

Such reversal of atmospheric CO2 concentration to circa 300 ppm CO2 can be achieved through CO2 sequestration  as cellulose (through re-afforestation and photosynthesis), biochar (through anaerobic pyrolysis of cellulosic waste) and bicarbonate (through accelerated weathering of limestone), coupled necessarily  with 100% renewable energy and geothermal energy  [10] and cessation of population growth, deforestation and GHG pollution from industry, transport and agriculture [11].  

The cost of returning to 300 ppm CO2 via removal of 175 billion tonnes of CO2 as  biochar is of the order of scores of billions of dollars (difficult but possible) but dire predictions from Professor  Peter Wadhams from 90-Nobel-Laureate Cambridge University of the impending release of 50 billion tonnes of CH4  from the Arctic sea bed in coming decades in the absence of effective climate change action (5,250 billion tonnes of CO2-e assuming a global warming potential for CH4 105 times that of CO2 on a 20 year time frame and considering aerosol impacts) makes the task of saving the planet apparently well-nigh impossible [3, 12].

With a global Carbon Debt increasing at about $10 trillion annually and the looming prospect that within decades it may become too late to save the planet, young people  (and those who care for them)  should be as mad as hell and shouldn't take it any more.  

For focussed, inclusive, climate  activism  I advocate an ABC strategy (akin to that successfully employed for other –isms from Humanism to Socialism) involving Accountability (by holding the terracidal climate criminals accountable at the ballot box, in public life in general,  and through Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) applied to all people, politicians, parties, companies, corporations and countries complicit in catastrophic climate change [13]), a Badge (wear a messaging badge e.g. “300 ppm CO2” indicating the safe target for atmospheric CO2 reduction), and a Credo ( a concise statement of position e.g. “for a safe and sustainable planet for all peoples and all species we must urgently return atmospheric CO2 from the present dangerous and damaging 400 ppm CO2 to a safe and sustainable 300 ppm CO2”) [14].  


[1]. Dr James Hansen, “Letter to PM Kevin Rudd by Dr James Hansen”, 2008: http://www.aussmc.org.au/documents/Hansen2008LetterToKevinRudd_000.pdf .

[2]. Dr Chris Hope, “How high should climate change taxes be?”, Working Paper Series, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, 9.2011: http://www.jbs.cam.ac.uk/fileadmin/user_upload/research/workingpapers/wp1109.pdf .

[3].  Dr Gideon Polya, “2011 Climate change course”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/2011-climate-change-course .

[4]. “Climate Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/climategenocide/ .

[5]. “Science & economics experts: Carbon Tax needed NOT Carbon Trading”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/sciennce-economics-experts-carbon-tax-needed-not-carbon-trading .

[6]. “Climate justice & intergenerational equity”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/climate-justice .

[7]. Gideon Polya, “Key Book Review: “Capital In The Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty”, Countercurrents, 1 July 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya010714.htm .  

[8]. Gideon Polya, “4 % annual Global Wealth Tax to stop the 17 million deaths annually”, Countercurrents, 27 June, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya270614.htm  .

[9]. “300.org – return atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppm”, 300.org: http://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/300-org---return-atmosphere-co2-to-300-ppm .

[10]. “100% renewable energy by 2020”: https://sites.google.com/site/100renewableenergyby2020/ .

[11]. “Cut carbon emissions 80% by 2020”:   https://sites.google.com/site/cutcarbonemissions80by2020/ .

[12]. “Are we doomed?”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/are-we-doomed .

[13]. “Divest from fossil fuels”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/divest-from-fossil-fuels .

[14]. “Stop climate crime”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/stop-climate-crime .

Dr Gideon Polya has been teaching science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contributions “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s1445960.htm ) and “Ongoing Palestinian Genocide” in “The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/4047-the-plight-of-the-palestinians.html ). He has published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/social-economic-history/listen-the-bengal-famine ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya's huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: http://sites.google.com/site/artforpeaceplanetmotherchild/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonpolya/ .



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