How Can We Stop Global Warming?


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Rationing, Cap and Trade and Taxes

(Revised 28-01-10) 


Dr. Michael Tuckson 


Most of the early action to reduce emissions will have to be behavioural as it will hardly be possible to change technology fast enough. In order to change behaviour a range of government policies, globally coordinated, will be necessary.


A War Footing and Rationing


If you understand the certainty of ongoing irreversible temperature rise and sea intrusion, and in addition the danger of sudden climate breakdown, the sort of action change required is equivalent to that which took place in many nations in 1939 at the start of the world war, which was observed to a lesser extent during the oil embargo, and in some progressive factories in the ongoing work recession.


All able adults were mobilized, given critical tasks and training where necessary. Men mainly joined the armed forces, and women took on many of the civilian jobs. Most foods and consumer goods were severely rationed. Moreover, factories were converted from civilian to war time use illustrating the rate at which technological change can take place. Luxuries for most were curtailed and unemployment disappeared. The top tax rate for the very rich rose to 98.5 percent, and they were still dining out. If we really try, jobs can be arranged for all.


In the present case of potentially irreversible global warming, people must move indirectly from fossil energy jobs to renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation, carbon absorption and sunlight reflection jobs, but via many other job changes, as the skills are mostly different. Much retraining is required and we must move now to train the trainers. Staff unemployed from closing coal mines and coal energy factories must be given moving assistance if alternative employment does not eventuate nearby, and appropriate retraining.


During the oil embargo and severe oil price rises in the 1970s, people moved by mass transport and bicycle, shared cars and worked at home. This could be duplicated with international agreement for globally similar regulations and incentives. Millions around the world still live successfully and happily without electricity, although they remain ignorant of modern systems, and are easily exploited. Another partial way is to adopt a farmer’s daily cycle, going to bed and rising early, spending the early hours growing vegetables using compost. Rationing would have some of the same effects. A carbon card that has been suggested would take some time to introduce and we do not have this luxury, although it could be worthwhile when we can do it. George Monbiot in Heat describes the many ways in which rationing could work successfully.


Taxes and Rationing


Taxes have been tried by governments in the past to limit consumption of particular types. Pioneer nation, Finland and then the other Nordic countries, Britain and a few states and cities in North America have long had carbon taxes, and France will soon introduce them. Sweden, for example, has reduced emissions by 9 percent in 16 years using taxation as a central policy whereas in the USA over the same time period emissions have been rising annually at 1 percent. But because most of the world, ‘led’ by the fossil fuel corporations, has been dragging their feet they will have to work so much harder to catch up with the Nordics. Why, even in the Nordic countries, it was the fossil fuel corporations and their worker unions that held them back from even more progress.


Note that rationing is much fairer than taxes, although possibly more difficult to implement. Taxes are actually a form of rationing favouring the richer part of the population. Economists prefer to distinguish between rationing that is based on administrative decisions and taxes that allow each individual with ‘demand’ meaning money to spend, to make a decision. One method is usually more complicated but can be fairer and one is simpler but highly biased.


Water rationing is common in irrigation systems and urban water supply when dams and groundwater levels are low, but the rich and powerful can often ensure they are excluded. In riverfed irrigation systems in many developing countries those in upstream schemes and near the weir in each scheme can assure themselves of a water supply every year while those downstream must wait for the better years. Mumbai and Nairobi among other developing cities brought in water rationing in mid 2009. As a result, water vendors using alternative sources, that are usually private tubewells, sell water at high prices. California is considering water rationing, and Sydney has had bans on hosing cars, pavements and lawns, but usually any other term but rationing is used. Moreover some success is achieved by persuasion in cities. It is interesting that water is not often taxed heavily to reduce water use. It is likely that most of this recent water rationing is at least partly due to global warming and climate change.


Tax rates and other associated measures have to be designed in such a way as to produce a useful response, if that can be predicted, and modified when necessary. Slight taxes will be swamped in the swings in oil prices, although might be effective in reducing the use of electricity by the very poor. Possibly taxes should be less on energy exported and critical industries that could otherwise leave the country.


Cap and Trade


Business favours the cap and trade system (CAT) because they expect to obtain carbon emission permits free. On the contrary there must be full auctions for the permits (ACT), as President Obama noted before he was elected, and a much stronger transparent monitoring of progress. All organization emissions per employee must be placed on central websites for easy comparison. Without the auctions the more efficient polluters will pay only a small penalty and could even make a profit. Moreover, the caps, while starting gently in the first year, must be gradually strenghtened to create significant emission reductions. We hear too much about the T and not enough about the C, let alone the A.


If the caps are strong enough and permits are auctioned, the cap and trade system would increase the price of carbon-based fossil fuels and provide revenue for the government having a similar effect to carbon taxes. The cap and trade system can have the advantage of international exchange between countries that can lower emissions cheaply and those for which the cost is high, but high transparency and quality monitoring is needed to avoid fraud. A significant disadvantage is that regions that are inefficient polluters will continue to pollute with detrimental local effects from pollutants. If cap and trade is used, a limit should be placed on the degree to which an organization can buy permits. A possible advantage of cap and trade over taxes is that the quantity of emissions controlled is better known, at least globally. However, taxes are easier to administer.


A "Clean Development Mechanism" (CDM) is an aside of cap and trade. It is not aimed at reducing emissions and many believe it could increase them. But it does have the valuable aim of transferring some "development" from rich countries in which the emissions are capped to poorer countries in which they are not. A polluting company in say Australia could buy pollution permits from a company in say Indonesia that agreed to set up a biogas plant to generate electricity. Rather than capping carbon pollution in Australia where it is relatively expensive to do commercially, the company pays a lesser amount to the Indonesian company to reduce emissions by an equivalent amount. There a three key rules. The reduction must take place, and thus be transparently monitored. The reduction must be additonal to what would have taken place under normal circumstances, and it must not result in extra emissions elsewhere. The first rule can be relatively straightforwardly covered, but the other two are very difficult to assess. The main answer to this debate must be transparency. In say Indonesia the company proposing the project must put all details on a national CDM website so others can check it for honesty. The website must have a portal for whistleblowers that can expose normal conditions projects and substitute emisions for what they are. The case of forests and trees I discuss in the sub-page Taking Responsibility.


Both ACT and carbon taxes have the disadvantage that emission reduction actions by corporations may not have an optimum time span. Governments need to consider separate regulations to get reducers to introduce technological changes to give the necessary short-term and long-term effects. As with a carbon tax, cap and trade that bites and causes price rises has a regressive effect in that the poor will suffer more than the rich. Part of the revenue from auctions must be used to support the poorest, an excellent reason why auctions are important.


A Combination


Probably a combination of auctioned cap and trade and carbon taxes with research and development and support (RDS), selected standards and rationing for particular cases would be best. Whatever combination is used they must be designed for adequate impact, that is to reduce emissions more than 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.


Tax revenue and revenue from permit auctions can of course be used for a wide variety of purposes, including simply returning it to the population in equal amounts per person, as has been suggested by James Hansen. Although this would be superficially popular, in order to reduce emissions further, a significant proportion might be used for RDS into renewable energy or other equivalent local industries. Those first to develop renewable energy technology such as Denmark and Germany are now reaping rewards. The USA buys much of its wind technology from a Danish company. Together with other regulations such as carbon dioxide emission standards, building codes or standards obliging energy efficiency with government inspection and incentives such as tax credits for purchasing electric cars and government purchasing of renewable energy, a significant transition can be had. Some tax revenues should be used to support the very poorest and particular occupations of the poor who are severely disadvantaged by the tax. In particular, we must use tax from whatever source to retrain and relocate workers from fossil fuel and related industries. Moreover, as President Obama has emphasized, for most nations, renewable energy means less dependence on imports from areas of the world that tend to be unstable or authoritarian, if not helped a little in these respects by the USA.


The rich prefer neither rationing nor taxes, or the auctioned permits that have equivalent effects, but if they have a choice they much prefer taxes or equivalent as they can usually afford to pay, and could if they did not send their funds 'off-shore'. Rationing ‘disadvantages’ the rich as it is usually done on a per capita basis, however, businesses can be given a separate ration according to their size and type. The retired and still capable rich may start a business. Rationing may at least be necessary in serious cases, for example if hording and speculation creates unreasonable price rises and shortages. Monbiot points out that the poor may have to use more carbon than the rich for suburban living as they have poorly insulated houses and old cars. Moreover, many tend to live on urban outskirts as land is cheaper. If a carbon price is used, the government must use some of the revenue to help such poor upgrade.


Taxes and rationing may be suitable for different sectors. Electricity rationing can be administered by the utilities with fines and cuts for exceeding the ration. Rationing can however result in increased private bribery and regulator corruption. Taxes are perhaps more flexible and can easily be set at various rates for example for city and rural people, different types of industry, and can accommodate fossil and renewable energy on the same grid. Because rationing petrol is more difficult than for electricity, a carbon tax seems more appropriate. However, a carbon card could be used a the petrol pump. Rationing has the disadvantage of encouraging a black market, for movable commodities at any rate. Highway regulation, as in Singapore and London, and subsidies for mass transport and bicycle lanes or whole bicycle towns can also be used. Bicycle lanes can be created from parking lanes, wide footpaths or from long front gardens.


Without an effective method to prompt behaviour change for say ten years until renewable energy or equivalent kicks in substantially, we could face the precipice. Although all these methods can be used to reduce fossil fuel consumption whether or not we have technological alternatives, most methods will change both behaviour and technology. An increased price of petrol will prompt some people to try car pooling and working at home as well as seeking a smaller car and renewable electricity. Taxes and rationing can easily be introduced slowly and ratcheted up as people get used to them and can predict their future. The Nordic countries have noted that their carbon taxes did not cripple growth, if 'growth' is actually necessary.


Populations’ willingness to rapidly change behaviour under global agreements will depend partly on the level of realistic outlook. While those with an optimistic outlook, unsullied by vested interests, may argue that the problem will be solved easily with existing government policy, a negative outlook claims that nothing can be done to avert disaster. The realistic outlook is that we can avert it, but we must act radically, and now.


 Copyright © 2009 Michael Tuckson.  All Rights Reserved 


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Các chiến lược mới để làm giảm nhẹ sự thay đổi khí hậu      

Semi-Random Slogans

Invite a denier to lunch

Eat less meat every day

Form a small climate group

Inertia will kill us, twice

Holiday on bicycles

Learn how to plant and nurture trees

Drain your rice fields sometimes 

Auction caps 

Grow and store carbon 

Write to a newspaper in a denier region 

Help the employees, not the fossil fuel owners

Read a book, not a newspaper, on the bus

350 not 450

Study tropical forest protection

Why are most deniers men?

Carbon tax before cap and trade

Look for a home closer to work

Write a new page for this website

Oppose lobbying

Put a new slogan on your bicycle or bag every day 

Study the latest climate science first

No air-conditioning before lunchtime

Drink just a little cow milk

Study Earth's thermal inertia

Learn how to teach

Send parts of this website to a politician

Grow and store carbon in houses 

Organize exchanges with Asian universities 

Grow crops not livestock

Rationing is equitable

Study thermal inertia in buildings

Practice dialogue, not argument

Behaviour before technology

Make a bicycle path plan

Don't use concrete

Drive a much smaller car

Study the denier claims

1.5 not 2.0

Don't use trees for offsets

Work with a bilingual person 

Eat even less meat every day

Support better democracy

Do deniers care for their grandchildren? 

Paint your roof white

Oppose advertising by polluting companies

Consume less, save money

Form an international group 

Help a politician to learn

Making cement emits CO2.

Education must be global 

Grow and store carbon in the soil

Fans, not air-conditioning

Lobbying is bribery

Study growing algae

Improve the school curricula

You can't read driving a car

Find dated photos of glaciers

Study which companies bribe political parties 

How do you entice a denier to want to learn?

Share your job with an oil driller

Plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere

Have you tried Tahini dip?

What do deniers understand?

Dress less formally in the heat

Design a more tempting commuter bus

Get to know a denier's children

Pay tax to fund retraining

Less clothing, not fans

Eat kangaroo meat 


Improve the university curricula

One is enough

Interview a climate scientist on video

Insulate your home

Open a wind turbine factory in a coal town

Study Earth feedback processes

300 not 350

Wheat is safer than rice

Take men's fashions up, and women's down

Use a condom in emergencies

Share some job-time

Protest forest destruction

Wear a cotton coat

Study tree plantations

Eat just a little cheese

Get to know a denier's grandchildren

Why do the rich want to grow?

Put on an extra jumper when its cold outside

Offer a new job to a coal miner

Adopt two

Join an NGO today

Political bribes, not donations

None is enough

Holiday close to home

Invest in a diverse plantation

Wear less in the heat

Talk to migrants about emailing home

Make compost

Promote eco-tourism for locals

Read more of this website

Ask a politician have they read James Hansen

Eat less cream

Jumpers are cheaper than gas

Arrange a climate debate

Build a thick-walled house

Study how to turn moderate deniers

Study fast growing trees

Hand out appropriate leaflets at railway stations

Study your local energy organization

Learn about the delights of veganism

Study Chinese

Practice walking

Shirts are enough in hot weather

Support rapid research on how to turn deniers

Try an IUD

Asians make blankets from cotton and kapok

Get to know your neighbours

Recycle jumpers and coats

Holiday by mass land transport

Drink red wine, not milk

Support rapid research on capturing CO2 from the air.

Hand out leaflets at bus stops

Men's legs are beautiful too

Talk to local government about recycling biological waste

Keep a stock of morning after pills


Adopt another one

When will the USA go metric?

Write and publish leaflets

Holiday on a sailing ship

Start a course on climate change and solutions

Exercise periodically when its cold

Farmers now support the Green party

Give a talk at the local school

Chocolate's great with soya cream

Climate crisis not climate change

Share a car with your neighbours

Study tipping points and irreversibility

Email government ministers

Form a climate group with your neighbours or friends

Read Climate Cover-Up

Study palaeo-climatology

Soon meat becomes less tempting

Improve your foreign language skills

Adopt a baby girl 

Write an article for your local newspaper

Read Storms of My Grandchildren (after reading some climate science such as on this website)

Take plastic packaging off at the shop

Climate emergency not climate crisis

Ask you government to make a good video on the climate emergency

Move your company to where your workers live

Invite your favourite denier to a vegan lunch

Ask the supermarket to turn off half the lights

Study carbon taxes in more than one nation

Join yours with other climate groups

Shop at dimly lit shops

Email people you know abroad

Ask a climatologist to explain the various! meanings of CO2e

Plant and nurture trees in your garden till its full

Learn about biochar

Study the bus routes in your town or city

Support James Hansen for the Nobel Prize for physics, peace or whatever.

Protest new oil exploration

Install a solar thermal hot water heater

Shop for food where the fridges have lids or doors

Plant 10 trees a month in neighbours' gardens and in parks

Ask your adult children what they think

Write a better letter to the newspapers

Organize a demonstration outside coal company offices.

Where are the Nobel prizes for Earth and social sciences?

Form a climate group at work

Give a talk at a school in a coal town

No children is best

Buy a glass of wine for a denier

Start an NGO

Support honest and intelligent politicians

Study short-term GHGs

Join a good political party

Give a talk at a school at an oil town

Study hire-purchase for solar panels

Stake out a coal energy factory

Don't export coal or oil

Work in a vulnerable area

Invest in geothermal

Live with a farmer family in the holidays and help them plant trees

Build a sailing ship

Give talks at the local town.

Hand out leaflets at another station

Video a debate

Move to a swinging seat in time for close elections



















 Michael Tuckson

The website author and publisher, December 2009.


Easy Summary


We must try to understand up-to-date climate science coming out over the last few years that warns of possible disaster. Ice shelves and sheets are melting much faster than before. Global temperatures are rising, with oscillations due to ocean oscillations. Natural causes are minor compared with pollution. This understanding must be spread by advanced adult education, especially among the powerful. As many readers as possible must spread understanding.


Denier leaders are funded by the fossil fuel, tobacco and similar corporations and/or are ideologues. Their arguments are always against, not considering pro and con, as with real science. They rarely call for better understanding, just attempt to confuse. None are climate scientists. Their motivation is salary and weak government, not salary and discovery. Either they do not care about their descendants or they do not understand the probable future.


We must put more emphasis on the short-term greenhouse influences such as methane. Carbon dixide must be captured from the atmosphere. Also we must lead with behaviour change before appropriate technology spreads. Birth control is important in some regions. Job-time sharing and retraining can reduce any unemployment resulting from mitigation measures. Mitigation must be coordinated globally by government and citizens in modern sectors. City pairing could be useful.