The Friday night card game attracted a handful of the usual suspects. Japan was there and Brazil, India, China, and even Saudi Arabia. And of course, with the tallest stack of chips and the world’s largest economy, America sat in the corner.
The betting and negotiations had been hot and heavy. Each country maneuvering to grow its stack of chips, all the while aware that at some point the “house” would be looking to take its cut of their profits. You see, in this game countries wager that the extra profits they can squeeze out of their economies by not paying for the damage carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions cause, will be greater than the price they’ll pay for the “social costs of carbon.”
The social costs of carbon are the expenses incurred from rising global temperatures including higher health and energy costs and damage to property and agriculture. It’s a complicated calculation that puts a price on the future damages resulting from fossil fuel emissions. These future social costs of carbon are calculated in today's dollars.
“All right boys!” It was Ma Earth, proprietor of the establishment. “Time for the house to take its cut.” She looked around the room until her gaze fell on India. “Sorry Indie, but the latest reports show that you’re really going to get whacked. I’ve gotta charge you $86 per ton for the carbon you add to the atmosphere if you want to stay in the game. Sorry, but these rising temperatures are going to hit you hard!”
Then she turned, “And don’t look so smug, America. You’re next!” Ma Earth explained that for America to avoid the added future costs caused by today’s fossil fuel carbon emissions, the U.S. should be investing $48 per ton of carbon it expels into the atmosphere to increase its energy efficiencies and for transitioning to clean energy. (For example, burning 100 gallons of gasoline produces about one ton of CO2.) Ma Earth held out her hand. “Pay now and save yourself a bundle of trouble, or pay later and suffer the consequences.”
Shrewd gambler that she is, America weighed Ma Earth’s ultimatum. In the end, it wasn’t a tough decision. Investing now in a cleaner, healthier future is a gamble well worth taking. Because Ma Earth runs the only card game in town. There’s no place else to play. We’re here forever…Earthbound.