No doubt most Basic Income News readers are aware of an interesting intersection where the arguments for basic income overlap with the arguments on how to best control global warming.

In his book, “Storms of my Grandchildren,” climate scientist James Hansen proposes a global carbon tax with the proceeds to be distributed to everyone (he calls it fee-and-dividend).

In other words, Hansen sees a worldwide basic income as a major component in solving one of our most important environmental challenges.

How to get there is the question.

In his book, Hansen proposes that the different national governments each implement a fee-and-dividend system. The fossil fuel fees collected by each country would be distributed as carbon dividends to the residents within their own borders.

Although it might have some effect on a few nations in the short-term, such an approach is unlikely to achieve the desired long-term results.

Nations with limited fossil fuel production but large populations would only have small dividends to distribute, and so little incentive to participate.

Those nations with large fossil fuel industries and small populations would find the temptation to produce and sell untaxed product on the black market attractive.

A better approach might be to bypass the national governments and go directly to the people of the world.

I have posted a petition on Care2 calling for a global carbon tax that takes that approach.

The petition is addressed to the secretary-general of the United Nations and calls for a worldwide referendum on the question.

Such a worldwide vote would be difficult to achieve but far from impossible. Don’t forget that the U.N. organized and ran an election in Kampuchea when much of that nation was still controlled by the Khmer Rouge.

Here in British Columbia, we have a carbon tax of $30 per tonne.

According to Wikipedia, the burning of fossil fuels produces about 30 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in the world each year.

A carbon tax of $30 per tonne of carbon dioxide would therefore raise about $900 billion per year.

Assuming there are about 5 billion adult human beings on the planet, the carbon tax proposed in my petition would provide each of them with a basic income of roughly $180 per year – effectively doubling the incomes of hundreds of millions.

No doubt most Basic Income News readers can point out many advantages of such a global carbon dividend. However, I would like to identify two that seem to me, as a layperson, most important.

The first would be simplicity. It would be relatively easy to identify those who are eligible to receive the benefit (age 18 and over), which would lessen the possibilities for corruption.

The second is that it would not be charity. The lives and livelihoods of every human being are being put in danger by global warming. The proposed carbon dividend would therefore be in partial compensation for that risk.

Such a global fee-and-dividend system would not solve all the world’s problems – but it would be a step in the right direction. It would help us to get a handle on global warming and global inequality – two of our biggest problems.

It would also open the door for reform and democratization of the United Nations (“No taxation without representation”).

The petition seeks to get 100 million names. This is modeled on the Swiss precedent, where 100,000 signatures on a petition are enough to get an important initiative taken to referendum. The world’s population (7 billion and rising) is about 1,000 times larger than that of Switzerland (8 million).

I don’t really expect the Care2 petition to achieve that number. I do hope, however, that some international organization will pick up the idea and run with it.

You can view the petition (and hopefully sign it) at:

About Yannick Vanderborght

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