Of the Three Musketeers and Climate Change
by Joseph Haloua**
What do carbon dioxide emissions and the Three Musketeers have in common? Human activity of course.
In the seventeenth century, Paris was the largest European city and had to contend with an enormous influx of rural population. While economic output was rising, the lack of a sanitation infrastructure threatened to stall progress.
The famous hats with large and solid brims worn by the Musketeers were more than mere fashion: they protected from all sorts of projectile detritus thrown from the windows into the streets by residents of buildings not equipped with running water, functioning toilets or garbage disposal.
Indeed, Parisians were dying in equal numbers to the new arrivals due to illnesses fermented in the putrid and festering street pools. Did the authorities respond by canceling economic activity and human endeavor? Of course not!
Through trials and tribulations and a lot of ingenuity, Paris was outfitted with a sewer system so big that—with periodic upgrades—it has carried the French capital into the 21st century. Today, despite a population density greater than Hong Kong’s in some quarters, Paris has become the number-one tourist destination and one of the largest economic centers of Europe.
It is therefore only fitting that The Paris Climate Agreement was designed in that city and signed by 195 countries.
Fast-forward to today. CO2 emissions were a necessary byproduct of our modern civilization that developed like none before. Fossil fuels for transportation, agriculture, advancements in science, medicine, and the military, were instrumental in reducing humans’ exposure to the whims of nature.
But with its consumption, CO2 emissions now threaten the good march of our societies. The precipitous release in only about 150 years of this greenhouse gas which had been removed from the atmosphere by plant activity over millions of years, is changing the climate so profoundly and rapidly that human life—all life—is being impacted.
There is a long scientific history warning us of dire consequences. The predictions are only getting more precise as we track unfolding events. Unprecedented fires in California, ravaging storms in Texas or increased frequencies of floods in the south of the United States are but a confirmation of scientific modeling.
So that is the problem. But, as the Parisians of nearly 400 years ago did, we can plan for a workable and prosperous solution to carry us into the future.
Reducing carbon emission is good policy. It will create many more well-paid jobs than it will destroy. It will help nature heal itself and spur innovations. One bill before Congress addresses these needs in a simple free-market answer: The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.
No one wants to stop the grand march of progress. On the contrary. Even the energy giant BP now says, “A well-designed price on carbon…is the most efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” BP is not alone. Companies increasingly want a way to be able to plan for the transition to renewable energy with a degree of certainty.
As was the case in Paris long ago, we have the technology and the public policy levers to make changes that will serve us well into the future. Now is the time to show political will.
**Joseph Haloua is a native of France, a resident of Pennsylvania Furnace, a businessman in State College and a volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
This article originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times.