New York, September 18, 2015—If the U.S. Congress truly cared about current and future impacts of climate change, it would put a price on carbon in the form of a tax or a cap-and-trade system, Columbia Law School Professor Michael B. Gerrard said at a September 16 conference on ecology and ethics held by the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary.
“We cannot put a price on many of the best things in the world, but we can put a price on many of the worst things in the world,” said Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law
. “If companies could no longer dump their carbon into the atmosphere for free, we would see a massive shift in our patterns of energy use.”
The conference, which covered everything from divestment to racial justice and climate change, featured many distinguished advocates, faith leaders, and practitioners, including former Vice President Al Gore, chairman of The Climate Reality Project.
Gore spoke immediately before Gerrard on a panel covering Climate, Culture, and the New U.N. Development Goals, calling the professor “a tremendous leader.”
Former Vice President Al Gore (left), chairman of The Climate Reality Project, spoke at a Center for Earth Ethics conference with Columbia Law School Professor Michael B. Gerrard,
director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.
Gerrard said there are many things the Obama Administration can do—and is doing—to cope with the effects of and prevent further damage from climate change, including under the Clean Power Plan and the National Environmental Policy Act. But without an act of Congress, he said, a future president who does not support a reduction in greenhouse gases can easily reverse course. The stakes could not be higher, he said, pointing out that the number of people displaced by climate change
within this century will make the current refugee crisis in Europe seem small in comparison.
“This conference is largely about values,” Gerrard said. “But with a lot of companies and individuals, if you grab their wallets, their values will follow."
The Center for Earth Ethics is directed by Karenna Gore
’00. The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law was one of several organizations who partnered with the Center for Earth Ethics on the conference.