Friday, September 6, 2019

#249 / Tax Carbon To Death?

I have a lot of friends who think we should deal with the global warming crisis by "taxing carbon to death." In These Times, a publication that generally leans to the left, ran an "Up For Debate" item in its September 2019 issue. Owen Poindexter advocated a "Tax Carbon to Death" approach, arguing that a carbon tax would be the best way to eliminate the hydrocarbon emissions that are putting life on this planet in peril.

Cynthia Mellon, policy coordinator at the Climate Justice Alliance, argued to the contrary. Her article claimed that "Carbon taxes will, at best, reduce emissions only modestly." Putting carton "to death" is definitely what we need to do. Can we do that simply by taxing it? Mellon said, "no," and I think Mellon won the debate. 

Like California's "Cap and Trade" approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a "carbon tax" attempts to bypass direct regulation and to utilize "the market" to achieve a needed result. I am for the direct approach!

If we are in a crisis situation, and we are, then I think we need, collectively, to tell everyone who is now emitting greenhouse gases to stop doing that at the earliest time possible, and if such emissions cannot be completely eliminated then to reduce such emissions to the maximum degree that can be achieved. A carbon tax, like the "Cap and Trade" program, attempts to let everyone believe that we can pretty much continue doing what we are doing now, and that the "market" will deal with the problems, and achieve the changes we need to make, if only we can get the pricing right. 

To me, this "tax carbon to death" approach is simply a way to avoid looking at the problem directly in its very bloodshot eye. If there is a way to reduce emissions, we need to reduce those emissions immediately. As politically difficult as that might be, that is really the only way to deal with our global warming crisis. The direct approach is not always "friendly," but that's what we need to do.

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