Tax Justice as Climate Justice

Originally published by Yes! magazine

You don’t have to leave America to go to the Third World.  I, for example, live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and here, as in all northern megacities, crushing poverty surrounds the comfortable precincts.  I can’t call it “extreme” poverty, for of course it cannot compete with the despair endemic to, say, the north African drought zones.  But when an organization like Remote Area Medical feels compelled to bring its traveling free clinic to The Oakland Coliseum (now, officially, the Oracle Arena), and when thousands stand for long hours to receive basic care they could not hope to afford, the problem is nonetheless clear.  This last April, when the good folks at RAM pulled up stakes and left Oakland for their next stop, it was Haiti.  The America they were leaving was not the “exceptional” America of the official dream.

Obviously, there’s lots to say about this.  And much from which to avert our eyes.  But what else is new?  The apologists say that the poor will be with us always, so how is poverty in Oakland California in any way “news?”  Or poverty more generally, given the now routine brutalities of the new economy?  Or insecurity and suffering more generally still, given the precarious state of the whole global system?  And what, finally, has any of this got to do with climate?  The answer, simply put, is “everything.”  Which is to say that while most economic-justice activists don’t spend much time thinking about the climate crisis, it’s become ridiculously easy to argue that the deficit / budget / tax battle that’s now raging across the wealthy lands of America and Europe is going to have outsized impacts on climate politics both domestic and international.  That in fact it already has.

Continue reading “Tax Justice as Climate Justice”

Finally, a comprehensive study of "outsourced emissions"

It’s been a long time coming, but a team led by Glen Peters, of the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, has finally published a comprehensive “consumption-side” analysis of global greenhouse-gas emission, one that takes international trade fully into account.

Estimates of “outsourced emissions” or “embodied carbon” have been knocking around for a while now, but this one is different.  This time the study – Growth in emission transfers via international trade from 1990 to 2008 — is comprehensive, and this time the publisher is the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences, and that’s going to make the results, and their implications, harder to ignore.

What consumption-side carbon accounting means is that, if a widget is manufactured in, say, China and then shipped to, say, the US – where it is “consumed” – the carbon embodied in the widget goes not on China’s books, as per the usual practice, but on America’s.  The difference makes a difference.  In fact, since 1990 – the Kyoto Protocol’s baseline year – 75% of the growth in the North’s consumption-based emissions took place in China.

Continue reading “Finally, a comprehensive study of "outsourced emissions"”