About three quarters of global greenhouse emissions come from burning fossil fuels, with coal making up 45% of that, oil 35%, and natural gas 20%. They are not the whole ballgame of climate change, but a very important part. A recently released paper by MIT economist, Christopher Knittel and University of Chicago's Michael Greenstone and Thomas Covert, looks at trends in fossil fuel production and pricing versus cost trends in renewables and batteries, and find that, absent market interventions, fossil fuels are likely to continue to be burned for many years yet. "If the past 35 years is any guide, not only should we not expect to run out of fossil fuels any time soon, we should not expect to have less fossil fuels in the future than we do now. In short, the world is likely to be awash in fossil fuels for decades and perhaps even centuries to come," the paper says. The study concludes that burning all available fossil fuels would raise global average temperatures 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100; burning oil shale and methane hydrates, two more potential sources of copious fossil fuels, would add another 1.5 to 6.2 degrees Fahrenheit to that.
Like many economists, Knittel supports a carbon tax to make fossil fuels more expensive and less attractive for consumption. This would help deal with the "externalities" that burning fossil fuels brings, including the social cost of having to adapt to climate change. "Taxes on externalities are not inconsistent with the free-market system," Knittel says in a press release. "In fact, they’re required to make the free-market system achieve the efficient outcome. This idea that a pure free-market economy never has taxes is wrong."
So let's all get behind Prime Minister Trudeau's call for a national carbon tax and push our premiers to get on board the transition to a carbon neutral economy, or we will join a similar extinction to that of the dinosaurs of the past.