By the Blouin News Science & Health staff

Avoiding extinction: A partial blueprint

by in Environment.

Smog over San Bernardino, CA. (Source: Chad McDonald/flickr)

Smog over San Bernardino, CA. (Source: Chad McDonald/flickr)

Graciela Chichilnisky is a Professor of Economics and Statistics at Columbia University in New York, as well as the Director of the Columbia Consortium for Risk Management. The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author of this blog are hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of Blouin News or Louise Blouin Media. This blog is part seven of a series.

Blueprint for Sustainable Development

The premises for Sustainable Development are:

1. Clean and Abundant Energy available worldwide

2. Sustainable growth in developing nations

3. Accelerating the transition to solar energy

4. Transforming fossil fuels into a clean alternative

Green Capitalism and Traffic lights for Human Survival 

New types of markets are needed to transform capitalism by providing incentives that make green economic projects more profitable than their alternatives, fostering conservation of biodiversity, clean water, a safe atmosphere — and some of them already exist and are described above. Green markets change GDP by valuing the Global Commons (the atmosphere, biodiversity, clean water) and they also link equity with efficiency.

Examples of green markets are:

  • Carbon Market – international law since 2005
  • SO2 Market in U.S. – trading at the CBOT since 1991
  • Markets for Biodiversity – to emerge, they are proposed by the author and under U.N. consideration
  • Markets for water are in the same condition

These markets provide the missing signal of scarcity that is normally provided by market prices when a good or service becomes very scarce. Such signals are tantamount to traffic lights for human survival. Here are sign posts to implement the above strategies going forward. In Copenhagen COP 15 December 2009 we were able to insert wording into the CDM allowing carbon negative technologies to be compensated as part of the CDM. Namely, that the CDM funds negative carbon technologies.

Economic Incentives for the Short and the Long Run

There is a major difference between long run and short run strategies. And long run strategies do not work for the short run. We need economic incentives for the short and for the long run. They are different because in the short run we must actually reduce carbon in the atmosphere and do so quickly – a carbon negative approach – and renewable energy as the long run solution. Renewable energy is too slow for the short run, since replacing a $55 trillion power plant infrastructure with renewable plants could take many decades. Action is needed sooner than that. For the short run we need carbon negative technologies that capture more carbon than what is emitted.
Trees do that – and they must be conserved to help preserve biodiversity. Biochar does that. But trees and other natural sinks are too slow for what we need today – see the beginning of this series.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series on negative carbon.

– Graciela Chichilnisky