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Why Carbon Passports Are a Very Bad Idea

Yes, climate change is a real problem, but this doesn’t mean that we should implement any idea (however wild) that would reduce CO2 emissions.

Carbon passports are a concept, no country has yet implemented them. However, the UK government investigated that possibility in 2008 and recent articles in the media suggest that carbon passports could be implemented by 2040, creating confusion and concerns that we hope to clarify.

What are carbon passports?

The main idea of carbon passports is that each person would have a yearly quota of CO2 for flying. Flying produces about 2.8% of global greenhouse emissions, so this measure might seem like a good idea at first.

But road transport produces 18% of the global CO2 emissions. Much more than flying. Wouldn’t it make sense to track these ones instead?

A solution would be to include all transport modes in our CO2 quota. In this way, one could choose to use the car less often and still be able to take a few extra flights for vacation.

With this, the CO2 quota will reach the same status as money.

To put a few examples, people might not be able to accept a job located far away, might not take weekend trips to visit relatives in another town, nor order items online that require shipping. Once determined mainly by time and money, CO2 would be added to the list.

Due to its importance, we would not tolerate errors in the counting of the CO2 budget. If a car ride burns X amount of fuel, the CO2 tracker must reflect that accurately. We would not be able to rely on any CO2 tracker app, only those certified by the regulatory body of each country, similar to the regulations for actual money.

CO2 banks would appear.

In a family where one person travels more, it would make sense that the rest transfer him part of their own CO2 quota. CO2 bank transfers would be born, sending gifts, inheritances and lotteries, all tracked with a yearly CO2 declaration.

Debt will also appear. Airlines might stop you from purchasing a flight if your carbon passport shows negative numbers, but you might still be able to take your car without anyone’s permission.

CO2 debt could be a determining aspect in one’s life. Nowadays having unpaid bills can hinder you from renting an appartment or getting a job. Having CO2 debt might be the same, and might also be punishable by law depending on its magnitude.

And last, what would be the CO2 quota? This would be a hot-topic for debate. Presidential candidates would fight over giving more to the poor or more to the rich. Their own quota would also be under strict scrutiny, same as today for their tax declaration.

In the end, money is only a number in the computer, its value comes from the value that society gives it. CO2 quotas would reach a similar status.

The events presented here might seem unrealistic, but in my opinion, they are very likely to happen if CO2 tracking is implemented. The cost of implementing such a structure seems overwhelmingly complex compared to other measures, such as realizing that neither nuclear nor renewables alone are a solution, but rather the combination of both.

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