Cap and Adapt: A Failsafe Approach to the Climate Emergency

Awareness that climate change is the world’s highest-order emergency is growing. Nearly 1,000 governments worldwide – including a few national ones – have made formal climate emergency declarations. Mass demonstrations worldwide by millions of young people and new activist groups like Extinction Rebellion are elevating the climate emergency to the top of the public agenda. In the United States, climate change tops the list of issues that the American public wants Democratic presidential candidates to debate onstage, and some candidates have proposed strong climate programs of a new kind.

In Congress this July, a concurrent resolution for the United States to declare a climate emergency was introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Earl Blumenauer, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and has sixty-eight cosponsors. Among them are all the senators who are major Democratic Presidential candidates.

This national climate emergency resolution “demands a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address its consequences and causes.” It states that this requires “a managed phase out of the use of oil, gas, and coal to keep fossil fuels in the ground.” While the resolution addresses the need to control all greenhouse gases, its concept of a managed phase out of fossil fuels goes directly to the root of the largest U.S. contribution to climate breakdown. Seventy-six percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are from fossil fuel combustion.

Here, we propose a policy framework we call Cap and Adapt, to accomplish the resolution’s proposed managed phase out of fossil fuels, and by design to do so at a speed matching the last-minutes-to-midnight urgency of our climate plight. Also, by design, it is inherently failsafe[1] both for meeting any target end-date the final legislation may adopt for the phase out and for ensuring the needs of individuals, families, communities, and the national economy are met.

Let’s “lead the target,” to achieve utmost climate policy

Cap and Adapt – A failsafe climate policy for fossil fuels

The principles behind the Cap and Adapt policy framework are

  • to be fast-acting and inherently failsafe for delivering essentially[2] zero fossil fuel emissions, by whatever end-date a finally legislated policy might require, and;
  • to be fair, equitable and inherently failsafe in meeting the needs of the economy, regions, communities, families and individuals.

The framework itself has three parts, whose justifications and functions we’ll explain later. The first is a cap on fossil fuel extraction and imports that declines on a fixed schedule prescribed in the legislation. The cap has primacy in the framework, because stabilizing (and then reversing) the climate crisis must have primacy in public policy. The other two parts, which help society and the economy adapt to that declining supply of fossil fuels, are an enhanced Green New Deal to facilitate the just and complete transition of the US economy to 100% renewable energy, and a standby program to smoothly and fairly ration national fossil fuel supplies in the event of energy shortages during the transition. MORE