Interview with Swedish author, David Jonstad, author of 'Our Fair Share'

Interview with Swedish author, David Jonstad, author of 'Our Fair Share'

Aaron Lake Smith
Published: 12/15/2009

Yesterday I got a chance to sit down with the Swedish author, David Jonstad, author of Our Fair Share, a book that hasn't yet been translated to English about the climate crisis and carbon budgeting. Interested readers can check out David's publisher Ordfront, which can be translated into English. David is also one of the founders of a new Swedish magazine on climate change, called Effekt

What is your book, Our Fair Share about?

Let's start off with saying I had a frustration about the debate around climate change, with the way it's talked about in moral terms--what you should do and not do. The idea that you could just ask people to be more 'environmentally friendly' and the problem could be solved. Al Gore says in The Inconvenient Truth, 'it's not a political issue, it's a moral issue.' My opinion is the opposite--it's a political
issue, not a moral issue. To be able to take care of this problem, we have to solve it in a political way, and create
a political framework to analyze the problem. To start off, we have to understand how much we can emit to not have catastrophic climate change. The basic political question is how do we split up this fossil fuel cake.

What are the advantages for your idea of having a carbon quota?

The advantage is that it is an effort we do together. This is not sitting in your home and turning down your thermostat, and changing your lightbulbs--these moral things that individuals choose to do. With a carbon quota, we would be solving this climate problem in a global way.

How would this work in real terms?

You have a bank account for money. You'd get a parallel account for carbon. Every month, you'd get a certain
amount of carbon put into this account. When you'd buy a flight, or gas, or electricity, or food, you would pay not
only with your money account but with your carbon account.

What about those that want to go over the carbon limit?

It would be possible for them to buy rations of carbon, and put the price of that on top of whatever they are purchasing.

There's a lot of places in the world with reserves of gas. What about Cuba, The Middle East and Canada?

Rationing is a way of putting the market aside in a situation of crisis. If people have never heard this rationing idea, they say, "Whoa, whoa, we're not at war now." But we have to acknowledge certain limits to our consumption. We have to realize that we're a part of nature, rather than nature just being a part of our economy.

What would you say to people in the US who don't want us to be regulated by an international protocol?

The US is dependent on oil imports now and will be even more in the future. It makes so much sense to move away from a car society, and from this idea that others produce your goods. In this way, we could strengthen local communites and local economies. We could create local jobs, and more societal resilence. Here, at the UN Climate Negotiations, I must say that the US is considered the hopeless bad boy, stalling everything. Looking at it in a more optimistic way, the US is the best country for creating massive changes and getting everybody on board.

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