The neoliberals’ “free market” is not going to sequester enough carbon to save the environment. Even Warren Buffett isn’t willing to take a bet on surviving an impending climate crisis catastrophe, because “the rents are too high”. Existential threats have a critical reality, about which ruthless criticism is entailed. Even if Pascal went to the horse race track, there are always muggers.
Historically, Pascal’s wager was groundbreaking because it charted new territory in probability theory, marked the first formal use of decision theory, existentialism, pragmatism, and voluntarism.
Since at least 1992, some scholars have analogized Pascal’s wager to decisions about catastrophic climate change. Two differences from Pascal’s wager are posited regarding climate change:
first, climate change is more likely than Pascal’s God to exist, as there is scientific evidence for one but not the other.
Secondly, the calculated penalty for unchecked climate catastrophe would be large, but is not generally considered to be infinite. (The agnostic’s response to climate deniers: Price carbon!)
Magnate Warren Buffett has written that climate change “bears a similarity to Pascal’s Wager on the Existence of God. Pascal, it may be recalled, argued that if there were only a tiny probability that God truly existed, it made sense to behave as if He did because the rewards could be infinite whereas the lack of belief risked eternal misery. Likewise, if there is only a 1% chance the planet is heading toward a truly major disaster and delay means passing a point of no return, inaction now is foolhardy.”
God exists God does not exist Wager for God Gain all Status quo Wager against God Misery Status quo
In a more formal statistical way, we can say that our null hypothesis is that there is no God or that there is no serious danger from global warming.
We can classify the situation as one of four alternatives. The first two are the situations where our conclusions about the null hypothesis are spot-on. So, that is the null hypothesis is actually true and we think that it is true or the null hypothesis is false and we think that it’s false too. So, we call it correctly in either situation.
The other two situations are when we call it wrongly whatever the truth is. So, that is when the null hypothesis is true and we think it is false or the null hypothesis is false and we think that it is true. In our global warming example this would be when we stock up on suntan lotion and think that global warming exists but it doesn’t, or global warming exists but we back the wrong team and there’s no problem.
These are called false positives and false negatives, respectively. In terms of Pascal’s Wager, the false positive (thinking there’s a problem when there isn’t) is not so bad, but the false negative (thinking there’s no problem when there is) could be catastrophic.
Is wagering for God not so much about the deity but for Nature, and is potentially deontological. The latter state is less about universality but about the probability of metabolic rifts. Do we defer to future selves because we have some degree of respect. There is capitalist bad faith as usual and Trump is one of its mascots.
Does addressing the climate crisis rely on a market for incentives rather than a market for voluntarism. Or have we gone to the track to place a bet, lost money, then got mugged because we’re not volunteering enough. Counting on capitalist volition will not save the environment because the market for carbon credit demand is 15 times too weak. Apparently wagering for God is not like wagering for Nature.
The market for voluntary carbon credits needs to grow by a factor of 15 or more in the next decade, a new report finds https://t.co/wMoHfmq0Qn
— Bloomberg Green (@climate) November 10, 2020
The market for voluntary carbon credits needs to grow by a factor of 15 or more in the next decade if government targets for limiting global temperature increases are to have any chance of being realized.
That’s the finding of a consultation report published Tuesday by the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets, which was initiated in September by former Bank of England governor and United Nations special envoy for climate action Mark Carney, to study how to harness market forces for limiting greenhouse gas pollution….“This is a market that’s $300 million right now — it’s a joke,” Carney said in a Bloomberg Television interview on Monday before the report’s release. “It should be measured in the tens of billions if not the hundreds of billions.”
The voluntary part of the carbon market is a $44 billion a year part of a patchwork of global systems where carbon emissions that come from burning fossil fuels are given a price. The hope is that by forcing companies to evaluate the cost of their emissions, they will cut back on gases damaging the atmosphere.
While the European Union requires that thousands of industrial sites and power plants buy allowances to cover their carbon dioxide emissions, voluntary systems allow companies to pay to “offset” what they produce. Carney’s group said demand for those credits will surge as companies become more aware of tightening environmental restrictions — and as societal pressures force them to clean up their business.Carbon markets came out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol calling on industrial nations to cut back emissions. They got a boost from the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015, where almost 200 nations agreed to limit fossil-fuel pollution. The target of that accord is to limit global warming to as little as 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times, a goal that would require cutting in half global emissions by 2030 and reaching zero by 2050.
“As the decarbonization of the global economy accelerates in the coming years, demand for voluntary offsetting will likely increase,” according to the report. “That demand is more likely to be met if a large-scale, voluntary carbon market takes shape, which is able to help companies achieve net-zero and net-negative goals. The scale up will need to be significant.”
The group said organizations that voluntarily purchase carbon credits can compensate for emissions that haven’t yet been eliminated by buying offsets in the voluntary market. Those securities finance projects that cut emissions in other places or spur renewable forms of energy.
- ‘Carbon Offsets’ Don’t Do All That They Promise: QuickTake
- A carbon offset is a promissory note to remove a certain amount of greenhouse gases from the air to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere. The goal is to protect the atmosphere while allowing economic activity to continue. The general term “offset” was popularized long before climate change took center stage: The Clean Air Act of 1970, passed by Congress in 1970, stated that high-volume emissions would only be permissible if the polluter reduced emissions in other locations. While offsets have historically centered around the planting or protection of trees, which absorb carbon dioxide while growing, the use of the term has since been applied to a variety of sustainable efforts globally.Most of the discussion on the subject revolves around so-called voluntary offsets, purchased by companies, organizations or individuals trying to meet self-imposed goals. Offsets are rare in the far larger compliance markets, in which polluters buy offsets to meet national or international regulatory requirements. Most such trading involves “carbon credits” granted by a regulatory body for cutting emissions over and beyond set targets. Offset transactions typically involve developers who come up with offset proposals, registries that validate whether the carbon savings are real and brokers who match offsets with buyers.
The size of the compliance market in 2019 was $44 billion, according to the World Bank. The most famous examples of compliance offset initiatives are cap-and-trade programs that limit a company’s carbon emissions unless they buy emission allowances from another entity that has not met its limit. The voluntary market is far smaller: about $300 million in 2018, according to Ecosystem Marketplace. BNEF analysts estimate that there are 2,750 voluntary implemented carbon offset projects verified with the four major registries. These projects have an emissions reduction capacity of 359 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, larger than France’s emissions. The actual market for offsets reflects a much lower number of actualized carbon reduction. In 2017, total carbon offset issuances removed only 47.1 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
What kinds of projects are involved? The most familiar kinds of offsets, called “sequestered emissions,” are projects that either protect or expand forests, restore deforested areas or involve tree planting on other types of land.
Are offsets effective? It depends. A growing number of environmental scientists are raising doubts. The first problem is whether promised reductions are actually happening.
What are the alternatives? Scientists argue that companies’ first priority should be to cut actual emissions wherever possible, and only rely on offsets for the emissions that cannot be cut.
- BNEF’s Voluntary Carbon Offset report.
- The United Nation’s environmental branch says offsets are “not our get out of jail free card.”
- A report by Gold Standard, a nonprofit that tracks emissions reductions, argues that global carbon offsets are facing a “watershed moment.”
- ProPublica’s critique of carbon offsets.
- Pricing Carbon Is Still More Theory Than Reality: QuickTake
- Carbon prices are set by governments or markets. They cover a select portion of a country’s total emissions, with most charges focused on utilities that produce electricity. Some take the form of a tax or fee that’s levied on each ton of carbon dioxide released. With a market, a limit is set on the total volume of emissions allowed; then permits are either allocated to, or purchased by, polluters. The credits can then be bought and sold, a system known as cap-and-trade.
Shaping the market with media framing like greenwashing is another form of bad faith. Rent-seeking describes the operation of media effects industries like advertising, lobbying and public relations, the bread and butter of Trumpian capitalism, slowing the pace of environmental change.