Thursday, November 27, 2014

Want to Stop Climate Change? Here's How.

Easy as pie.  Easy, peasy.  All we have to do is tweak a few laws.

New law.  Matters relating to climate change and including claims for consequential human suffering and loss shall no longer be protected by the laws of limited liability but shall extend to investors personally, either as lenders, shareholders or as corporate directors, jointly and severally.

Don't just pierce the corporate veil, shred it into tatters.  For this one, civilization-threatening crisis, you're on the hook, personally, for every last cent you have. The corporate fiction was intended to facilitate commerce, not to destroy mankind.  What was meant to serve us now exists to ruin us.  We made it, we can remake it.


Relax, they'll never do it.  The sort of reform I'm suggesting would probably shut down the fossil fuel industry quite abruptly when we're far from prepared to rely on alternative energy sources.  The important point is that Big Fossil is only able to inflict this potentially catastrophic damage because the individuals pulling the strings are personally immune from the consequences.

There are probably many coal and oil executives who go to work in the morning fully aware of the need to throttle back on fossil fuel consumption.  Yet, once they get to the office they're duty bound to do everything possible to make their companies profitable, to maximize shareholder return.  If they don't, then they can be sued, held personally liable to the company and its shareholders.

The irony is that the same body of laws that renders these corporate controlling minds personally immune from liability for making decisions that contribute to undermining the viability of our environment, attach personal liability to those same individuals for failing to make those same decisions.  That is why we vest government with the authority to regulate these situations, an essential power that government too often these days refuses to exercise.


Toby said...

To stop climate change we would have to remove at least half the mouths on the planet. We are simply too many. We are consuming more than the planet can handle. Nature will ultimately win this one; humans won't.

The Mound of Sound said...

There's plenty of debate about that, Toby. Some knowledgeable types claim that we're not overpopulated. Others maintain we still have plenty of room left to grow the global economy. I don't buy either argument but the leaders of all of our major parties fully embrace perpetual, exponential growth as essential for the country. Their reasoning is what I've described as our Thelma & Louise moment.

Toby said...

While I'm thinking about it, one change that would stop many carbon companies in their tracks would be an end to subsidies.

Norm said...

Toby You're right.Along with OPEC willing to accept reduced oil prices that will shut down some of the tar sands most of us are not aware of the extent of the subsidies that also keep them afloat.Perhaps now is a good time to expose them, who and how much and from who.
Do you have these figures?

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Norm. The subsidies Toby refers to are documented quite well by The Tyee's Andrew Nikiforuk I think they're detailed in his book, "Tar Sands."

Toby said...

IMF Pegs Canada's Fossil Fuel Subsidies at $34 Billion

Many subsidies to resource industries are disguised; roads, bridges, power lines that no one else will ever use, etc.

Ron Waller said...

To stop climate change we need to make dirty energy more expensive and clean energy (in the electricity grid) less expensive. That means carbon taxes and subsidized green energy paid for by taxpayers not ratepayers.

The top 20% makes 52% of the income and pays 60% of income taxes. Therefore progressive green is based on big government spending. Regressive green is "neutral" carbon pricing -- carbon pricing + big tax cuts for the rich.

In order to impose carbon pricing externally, we must abandon free-trade ideology which creates a regulatory race to the bottom and impose carbon tariffs on environmental freeloaders (as well as leverage jobs which will make our markets desirable to undeveloped countries.)

We also need regulations that ban coal-fired power plants (30% efficient compared to gas plants which are 60% efficient) and hasten the transition to electric vehicles (85% efficient vs. combustion engines that are 20% efficient.)

In short, we need smart centrist mixed-market solutions. Unfortunately mainstream North American parties mistake right-wing free-market neoclassical ideology for evidence-based policy.

Ron Waller said...

Toby: great link.

We could definitely put the $34-billion a year to greater use than in the pockets of resource shareholders.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Canada is collecting $90-billion a year less in taxes than it did in the 1990s. This is after 15 years of Liberal and Con tax cuts. These tax cuts did not create prosperity. The opposite is true.

That's why we need big government solutions to create jobs, raise living standards, lower inequality and drastically reduce GHG emissions.

$120-billion a year would wipe out all deficits, and leave over $90-billion a year to invest in Canadians and infrastructure which would create jobs, boost GDP growth, lower the debt burden (debt/GDP), and provide more funding for health, education and social programs.

Small government is the problem!

Unknown said...

Oil prices were $110/barrel in June 2014 and today the price per barrel just took another drop today US crude is now $66/barrel.

It is no longer feasible to mine Alberta's tar sands thyey need at least $100/barrel. Lotta people gonna be out of work at Fort Mac...

Unknown said...

Oh links to the stories:

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks Ron. Thanks Mogs. You should check out this post at DeSmogBlog:

The post explores the Carbon Bubble and how it affects Athabasca. The collapse of oil prices could compound another threat facing the Tar Sands - companies moving out of high-cost/high-carbon fossil fuels. The suggestion is that, if producers move out of Athabasca because of weak prices, they may not return later if prices rebound. They could be gone for good.

The producers are apparently concerned about bitumen production costs, future emissions controls, carbon pricing and, of course, public resistance to pipelines.

karen said...

Something that annoys me as much as those subsidies to the oil industry is the mantra that oil and gas (now pleasingly referred to as "energy" - had you noticed?) are such an important part of Canada's economy. According to Stats Can, from September 2013 to September 2014, mining and oil and gas extraction made up between 5.9 and 2.5% of the GDP.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, Karen, we have been very heavily conditioned to perceive fossil energy as the lifeblood of the Canadian economy. It is an "important part" of Canada's economy to a narrow group of people who, unfortunately, hold the reins of power.