“Put your money where your claim of prudent skepticism is,” I say to my denier friends, “I’ll bet you a Ferrari that the climate crisis is real and of the magnitude established by more than 99% of juried scientific research.”
One of the things I like about the climate crisis (actually the only thing) is that unlike theological speculations or opinions about the merit of wines, movies, and pop stars, this debate will not be decided in the vaporous court of public opinion. Anyone under 75 years old will live to witness the debate’s decisive empirical conclusion, not just who won the polls but what happens to the poles, North and South, and their ice caps that are already melting at a rate unprecedented in millenia.
So when I talk to those guys who count themselves smarter than the scientists, I just say “pick a date.” Let’s see who,s right.
And though I know there’s an outside chance I’ll have to spring for a Ferrari, I’m happy to sign a better’s contract. I feel like the pool shark sucking the gullible into an inevitable punking. To lure these suckers in I say, “Look, if I win, you’ll be able to buy me my Ferrari cheap. The climate crisis will drive Ferrari prices way down.”
I do need a better’s contract though. The deniers are slippery. One denier, drunken on his own opinion sobered up when I proposed the bet, “Oh, I’m not actually saying global warming isn’t real. I’m just saying it may not be man made.” The other day one denier claimed his prize by email specifying the particular Ferrari model and color he wanted delivered. He claimed victory by pointing to three books that “proved” global warming was a hoax. Nope with these guys, we have to put the bet’s terms in writing.
I love the odds here, all this low hanging fruit. The deniers are perfect marks. Their minds are on vacation; their confidence is working overtime. I don’t know what I’ll do with my Ferrari when I win, but if I’m right about global warming that will be least of my troubles.
In the mean time though, I’m betting against my Ferrari by trying to forestall the climate crisis while we still can. And finally there’s a great bet. “Fees and Dividends,” a win-win-win for turning around the crisis, creating jobs, and reducing government spending, an approach to the climate crisis endorsable by libertarians and greens alike. We add 13 cents to a gallon of gas and return the money by check to citizens at about $250 per person annually.
“How can that help?” you might ask if you’ve forgotten your econ 101. Higher prices reduce demand. In 50 years we’ve burped a billion year’s worth of fossil fuels into the atmosphere because they’re irresistibly cheap. Now that we know the trillions of dollars that oil and coal really cost the planet we want to reduce consumption, but it’s as hard to kick discounted cheap fuel as it is to kick booze during happy hour.
Burning a gallon of gas is like your neighbor dumping his trash onto your lawn. It’s his trash; he should pay for its disposal. In a free market, there’s no free lunch. People should pay the cost of their own pollution. But no way in an economic downturn can or should we pay more to big oil or the government.
So instead we give the money back to you in a dividend check. After all it’s your property we’re polluting.
We’ll phase-in honest energy pricing. Every year, we add 10 cents per gallon and distribute that much more money to citizens directly. Three quarters of us would come out even or better, but in the mean time we’d have money-talks reasons to consume less, build green industry, and gain energy independence.
Fees and Dividends is the practical politically viable solution that should make the deniers brave enough to finally face the problem. Some will still say a solution in unnecessary since the climate crisis is a hoax, green industry is a bubble, and we can get Arab oil under control. For them, I’ve got my Ferrari bet.