world burns


How do we go about saving the future? By whatever means necessary!

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan celebrated the birth of their baby girl by promising to do as much as they can to make her life better. Click over and read the whole thing, but here are a few of my takeaways from their open letter to her:

Our hopes for your generation focus on two ideas: advancing human potential and promoting equality.
Advancing human potential is about pushing the boundaries on how great a human life can be…
Promoting equality is about making sure everyone has access to these opportunities — regardless of the nation, families or circumstances they are born into….
This mission — advancing human potential and promoting equality — will require a new approach for all working towards these goals.
We must make long term investments over 25, 50 or even 100 years. The greatest challenges require very long time horizons and cannot be solved by short term thinking.
We must engage directly with the people we serve. We can’t empower people if we don’t understand the needs and desires of their communities.
We must build technology to make change. Many institutions invest money in these challenges, but most progress comes from productivity gains through innovation.
We must participate in policy and advocacy to shape debates. Many institutions are unwilling to do this, but progress must be supported by movements to be sustainable.
We must back the strongest and most independent leaders in each field. Partnering with experts is more effective for the mission than trying to lead efforts ourselves.
We must take risks today to learn lessons for tomorrow. We’re early in our learning and many things we try won’t work, but we’ll listen and learn and keep improving.
And here’s the kicker:
Today your mother and I are committing to spend our lives doing our small part to help solve these challenges. I will continue to serve as Facebook’s CEO for many, many years to come, but these issues are too important to wait until you or we are older to begin this work. By starting at a young age, we hope to see compounding benefits throughout our lives.
As you begin the next generation of the Chan Zuckerberg family, we also begin the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to join people across the world to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation. Our initial areas of focus will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.
We will give 99% of our Facebook shares — currently about $45 billion — during our lives to advance this mission. We know this is a small contribution compared to all the resources and talents of those already working on these issues. But we want to do what we can, working alongside many others.
We’ll share more details in the coming months once we settle into our new family rhythm and return from our maternity and paternity leaves. We understand you’ll have many questions about why and how we’re doing this.
As we become parents and enter this next chapter of our lives, we want to share our deep appreciation for everyone who makes this possible.
I have nothing but gratitude for their generosity. 
Then, again, I don’t think anyone should be able to amass a fortune of well over $45 billion (that’s only the value of their Facebook shares – not their entire fortune!) without paying a significant amount of it forward, so to speak.
Another billionaire, Tom Steyer and his wife did something similar, pledging  to contribute most of their wealth to charitable causes during their lifetimes. His main focus is climate change, and he’s spent a lot of that money supporting candidates for whom that issue is a priority, and going against their opponents/
He founded NextgenClimate, where they’re doing some great coverage of the Paris conference.
This morning on the show, I was joined by Charles Komanoff, founder and director of the Carbon Tax Center, who is urging the negotiators in Paris to focus on national carbon taxes. 

On Sunday, November 29, the eve of the UN climate summit in Paris, the Carbon Tax Center released a letter signed by 32 notable individuals urging Paris climate negotiators to focus on national carbon taxes, both for their intrinsic value and as a gateway to a global carbon price.

The group includes four Nobel Laureates, three former U.S. cabinet secretaries who served under four Presidents (from both major political parties), two former vice-chairs of the Federal Reserve System’s board of governors, and three distinguished faculty members from Harvard University’s economics department. It also includes leading carbon tax advocates from across the political spectrum: Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center, Mark Reynolds of Citizens Climate Lobby, and Charles Komanoff of CTC.

The text of the letter is directly below, followed by a complete listing of the signatories. (The identical text and listing are in this pdf.)

Released in Paris and New York, Sunday, November 29, 2015

Taxing carbon pollution will spur everyone ― businesses, consumers and policymakers ― to reduce climate-damaging emissions, invest in efficient energy systems and develop low-carbon energy sources.

This single policy change — explicitly using prices within existing markets to shift investment and behavior across all sectors — offers greater potential to combat global warming than any other policy, with minimal regulatory and enforcement costs.

We urge negotiators at the upcoming UN Climate Conference in Paris to pursue widespread implementation of national taxes on climate-damaging emissions.

We endorse these four principles for taxing carbon to fight climate change without undermining economic prosperity:

1. Carbon emissions should be taxed across fossil fuels in proportion to carbon content, with the tax imposed “upstream” in the distribution chain.

2. Carbon taxes should start low so individuals and institutions have time to adjust, but then rise substantially and briskly on a pre-set trajectory that imparts stable expectations to investors, consumers and governments.

3. Some carbon tax revenue should be used to offset unfair burdens to lower-income households.

4. Subsidies that reward extraction and use of carbon-intensive energy sources should be eliminated.


Frank Ackerman
Kenneth J. Arrow
Jim Barrett
Alan S. Blinder
Dallas Burtraw
Steven Chu
Richard N. Cooper
Robert H. Frank
Shi-Ling Hsu
Charles Komanoff
N. Gregory Mankiw

Donald B. Marron Jr.
Aparna Mathur
Warwick McKibbin
Gilbert Metcalf
Adele C. Morris
Robert Reich
John Reilly
Mark Reynolds
Alice M. Rivlin
James Rydge
Thomas C. Schelling

Robert J. Shapiro
George P. Shultz
Joseph Stiglitz
Steven Stoft
Chad Stone
Jerry Taylor
Richard Thaler
Eric Toder
Martin Weitzman
Gary Yohe

Check out the Carbon Tax Center website for more information.

In hour one, after a rant about the consequences of ugly vitriolic rhetoric, it was once again time to dig into the Oy FloriDUH files with Deborah Newell Tornello.

I’ll be back tomorrow morning with Harvey J. Kaye and Howie Klein too, radio or not!