Sunday, January 31, 2016

Make it Hot - a rap argument for a global carbon tax by Baba Brinkman


When a global carbon tax is promoted in a rap song, isn't it time to listen?

"Baba" Brinkman is a Canadian rapper and playwright best known for recordings and performances that combine hip hop music with literature, theatre, and science. He draws upon literature and science for his inspiration.

Brinkman's latest series of Rap songs focus on the science, politics and economics of climate change are part of his latest hip-hop theatre show, "Rap Guide to Climate Chaos", which premiered at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

He attended the COP21 UN Climate conference in Paris in December 2015 and was invited to give a couple of recitations during press conferences. This one is "Make It Hot", about the need for a global carbon price, performed on Friday December 11, 2015, the day before the conference concluded.


At the Our Common Future Conference on climate science in Paris in July 2015, Nobel award winning economist Joseph Stiglitz strongly argued the case for a global carbon tax. This could be lead by a 'coalition of the willing', with cross border taxes on goods from non-participating countries. It would provide a strong measure to transition the planet to low emissions and fight climate change.

Sadly it wasn't on the diplomatic agenda in Paris. The UN Climate Conference in Paris didn't give us a global carbon price, although all 195 nations did agree unanimously to the Paris Agreement which sets an international framework for co-ordinating national emission reduction climate plans, called Nationally Determined Contributions, and sets in place an ambition framework for increasing the targets and effectiveness of those national climate plans over time.

Brinkman also performed at COP21 a hip-hop interpretation of the Pope's encyclical, Laudato Si (PDF), with much of the lyrics paraphrased from the Pope's own twitter feed. It was filmed during a press conference on "Moral Obligation – Scientific Imperative" for Climate Matters.


Brinkman does not have the usual profile of a Rap artist. He uses the form to effectively communicate ideas and stories from literature and science.

A work commissioned in 2008 by microbiologist Mark Pallen, "The Rap Guide to Evolution," was a hip hop homage to Charles Darwin, prepared for the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, on Feb. 12, 2009. As all the lyrics were fact-checked for scientific accuracy, Professor Pallen called it "the first peer-reviewed rap", according to this report in the New York Times.

This isn't the first climate Rap I have featured here. See I'm a climate scientist which was produced in 2011 by the Hungry Beast team for the ABC.

You can help support Baba's "Climate Chaos" IndieGogo campaign or become a patron of Baba Brinkman via Patreon.