The Case for a Carbon Tax

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As people start to come to terms with the serious health impacts of climate change, there is a strong push for climate change mitigation through policy. The carbon tax is one such policy intervention that holds promise for reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere by putting a direct price on carbon. By putting a price on carbon, we can improve the economy, reduce health impacts from global warming, and reduce pollution that results in global warming.

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Effects of  global warming (courtesy of the EPA)

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Health Impacts courtesy of the CDC

A federal carbon tax in the US would put a price on each tonne of CO2 emitted and provide financial incentives to businesses, governments, communities, and individuals to use less carbon, and a financial penalty for those who use more. The tax would include hidden carbon costs of a service or product (e.g. transportation costs) as well as direct costs involved in production or service delivery.

Many other countries already have a version of a carbon tax in place, including British Columbia, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Now it is time for the US to become a leader in the climate change fight and join the rest of the world to reduce our carbon emissions!

While groups such as the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and even oil and gas companies such as Exxon Mobil  have come out in support of taxing carbon, there are still some groups who are against it, such as many individuals and business with ties to the oil, coal, and gas sectors; as they stand to pay more penalties for producing carbon-based products. Some organizations; such as the Union for Concerned Scientists, are against the tax- not because they think it is a bad idea, but because they support the idea of a cap and trade system (where there is a mandatory limit on emissions, but businesses can have flexibility about how they comply) instead.

Climate change has been highly polarized in US politics with many conservatives arguing against the tax while many liberals support the tax, but even some conservatives such as Jerry Taylor (Libertarian) advocate for the tax and give strong arguments for  conservative support (read it here). Currently, there is a proposal to pass a carbon tax in Washington, making it the first state to adopt a carbon tax. Although opponents claim that a carbon tax may hurt the economy, this has not been shown to be the case in countries that have already adopted a carbon tax. For example, British Columbia has used the revenue from the carbon tax to help strengthen their economy. As you can see below, petrol sales also have gone down since the tax was introduced in 2008.

chart-2-sales-of-refined-petroleum-producs-per-capita-in-bc-and-canada

 

If you want to show your support for the carbon tax:

  • Vote for representatives who support the carbon tax and other related climate change policies
  • Support organizations who show support for the tax
  • If your state happens to draft carbon tax legislation, call your congressperson or start a petition to show your support
  • Let others know about why this issue is important

Together we can make a difference and make our voices heard!

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7 Responses to “The Case for a Carbon Tax”

  1. Fátima Reynolds Says:

    Considering the state of U.S. politics, do you feel there may be other ways to limiting our emissions and carbon footprint that may not be as contentious as a carbon tax? For example, China is promoting its government officials if they meet environmentally adjusted benchmarks. Perhaps incentivizing our policy-makers in this way could overcome some of the domestic barriers to combating climate change.

  2. free62570 Says:

    I agree with the author view point regarding health and environmental effect on carbon emission. However, I think that putting tax on carbon emission can hurt the US economy and such policy will be difficult to push through congress. The US economy may different from other countries that the author mentioned in the blog; the US economy relies heavily on consumption and at this time America only composes of 5% of the world population, but it uses 24% of the world energy (1). Unless there is an alternative and cheaper source of cleaner energy, I foresee that Americans will use the same amount of energy even if they have to pay more. I think we are better putting our effort into finding ways to produce cleaner energy and to educate the public about the negative environmental and health impact they are making when they consume more.

    1. http://public.wsu.edu/~mreed/380American%20Consumption.htm

  3. kendranwilliams Says:

    I support the issue of carbon tax, not only because it encourages companies to reduce their carbon emissions, but also because it could help provide revenue for the carbon credit market. The carbon credit system allows private companies to offset their carbon emissions by investing in other companies or programs that are working to reduce carbon emissions. For example, the clean cookstove sector sells improved cookstoves that release fewer emissions than traditional cooking methods. Companies can purchase these emission reductions to compensate for their own emissions, providing revenue for stove businesses and keeping stove prices affordable for poor consumers. This allows more people to obtain improved cookstoves, which can each save between one and four metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. The carbon tax could motivate more companies to purchase carbon credits, such as those in the clean cooking sector, to ensure that their net carbon emissions fall below the taxable limit. See the following site for more information: http://carbonfinanceforcookstoves.org/carbon-finance/the-opportunity/.

  4. skbanergt Says:

    I completely agree with the carbon tax. There are multiple ripple effect that this policy would create. The carbon tax would have the same effect as a sin tax that was placed on tobacco. This discouraged individuals from smoking, causing declines in smoking rates. Additionally, this would aid in marketing campaigns to place the perils of global warming in the forefront. In terms of behavior change, individuals would think twice before taking their own vehicle and begin to carpool. This tax would have a more profound impact than having a high-occupancy vehicle lane.

    Additionally, this may make vehicle manufacturers to be more creative and promote the electric car in the United States. These cars have gained more popularity in Europe where the fossil fuel and carbon taxes are relatively high. For more information:

    http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-electric-cars.php

  5. akuhajda Says:

    While the idea of a carbon tax seems like it would work well in theory, I wonder about the issue of pushing such legislation through Congress given all of the opposition from major companies and business interests. Rather than enacting a carbon tax, I feel that it may be more worthwhile to provide incentives for companies to adopt more carbon-friendly tools and technologies. I think that enacting legislation to encourage companies to adopt greener practices would be much easier to pass and implement than a carbon tax. Not only would such legislation likely have more support in todays political climate, but it may even help the economy overall, as well as spur additional research on green technologies by industry overall.

  6. akwascot Says:

    I really enjoyed this blog, and thought that it was great to see someone tackle the topic of a carbon tax. Carbon tax has become a bit of a buzz word in recent years, but I think the premise and the idea are great ways to curb emissions of greenhouse gases.

    Climate change is a very real and very serious issue, and as we move further into this century, its effects will continue to be felt throughout the globe. Additionally, those who feel the most effects will be the poor and those unable to adapt to the changes.

    I personally support the carbon tax, and would very much like to see the United States be a leader in implementation of a federal carbon tax. We also have the benefit of being able to see what other countries have done and how the programs are working in those countries. I think that framing the issue is also incredibly important, with possible profits of the carbon tax being used for reinvestment, and the notion that even if you don’t believe in global warming (despite adequate scientific research), everyone should be about a cleaner and healthier environment, which is done through legislation and regulation of industries.

    I think the final point of this blog is incredibly important. Voting is one of the single most important things a person can do. Getting involved with the system is the best way to make changes.

  7. madhunaga Says:

    Thank you for posting on this topic, and great graphics that really illustrate your points!
    I think I agree with most of the others who have commented before me – the carbon tax is important and necessary, but will it pass through Congress? I believe that it may take a major event to make legislators sit up and pay attention, and by then it may be too late – but it behooves us to be prepared for that time and move swiftly to take advantage of it.
    I prefer the carbon tax over complex systems of cap and trade because I think they perform a very essential economic function – they internalize the externality that is inflicted by companies that produce emissions on society – and make them pay for it in a manner that capitalism and markets understand – monetary disincentives.
    It also permits people in economies in other parts of the world that have not yet reached the level of industrialization that the developed world and the USA has to achieve their goals of economic growth and social improvement of their peoples without destroying their natural environment.

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