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$300 billion won’t be enough to save the climate

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This climate change tweet, by author and political analyst Anand Giridharadas, has as of writing received more than 90 000 retweets and nearly 250 000 likes on the social media platform Twitter.

In the tweet, Giridharadas writes that “nothing more needs to be said” and shows two screenshots of tweets from two different news stories. The headline on the first news story says that $300 billion is the amount of money needed to stop the rise in greenhouse gases and buy up to 20 years of time to fix global warming. The second news story explains that the world’s 500 wealthiest people gained $1.2 trillion in 2019, boosting their collective net worth to $5.9 trillion.

The tweet and the story have gotten a life of its own on social media with many people seemingly equating these $300 billion to saving the climate. But that is obviously a misleading and way too simplistic view.

$300 billion won’t be nearly enough to save the climate. It would – if it’s not too late already – only give us a few more years of breathing room to implement radical green policies on a global scale that actually could save the climate. But it does show that we can afford to save our climate – if we wanted to.

Simply by just implementing a climate tax that takes one-quarter of the capital gains in a single year from these 500 wealthy individuals, the earth could get a little more time – time we desperately need – to save the modern human civilization from destruction.

The story shows that making the rich pay their fair share is essential in fighting the climate crisis, be it individuals or nation-states. For example, these $300 billion is half of the US military budget for only one year. Or the yearly military budget of Germany, or France.

But unless we don’t stop increasing our emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases now, these $300 billion for reforestation will be useless either way. There is no easy way to combat climate change. If we want any chance of limiting warming below the dangerous 2 degrees threshold, we must combine solutions like this $300 billion reforestation program with aggressive mitigation of our greenhouse gas emissions.

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