Letter: A carbon tax can start us on a low-carbon path.
Douglas Fischer/Daily Climate

Letter: A carbon tax can start us on a low-carbon path.

Uncertainty over climate impacts is no reason to shy from a modest incentive to break our fossil fuel addiction.

Letter: A carbon tax can start us on a low-carbon path


Photo by Douglas Fischer/DailyClimate.org

July 19, 2016

Uncertainty over climate impacts is no reason to shy from a modest incentive to break our fossil fuel addiction.

Re: To Tax or Not To Tax (July 18, 2016)

Follow @thedailyclimate

To the Editor:

I'm amazed that you would distribute such an anti-science article opposing even the mildest of approaches to dealing with the climate problem.

Author Ruth Greenspan Bell—after admitting broad support among economists for the idea of a carbon tax—offers three objections to it: flawed models, downplayed risk and uncertainty.

We can estimate easily enough the amount of CO2 emission reduction for different tax levels.

None should stand in the way of a modest tax on carbon emissions.

Greenspan Bell notes that models attempt to estimate the least cost of damage to be incurred by climate change, and she concludes that such calculations are next to impossible to tally. I agree. The "externalities" of climate change are notoriously difficult to pin down. We can easily calculate increases in insurance rates, annual government disaster aid, etc., but such data make up a small fraction of overall environmental damages.

Tally solutions, not impacts

Yet these are not the relevant costs. The damage costs may help the political argument, but they are secondary. The costs that are needed are those addressing the task at hand: Curtailing greenhouse gas emissions, i.e. the costs of converting the world economy to renewable energy sources. These are costs for equipment and subsidies to get new industry going on the scale that is needed. All pretty standard accounting.

We can estimate easily enough the amount of CO2 emission reduction for different tax levels. In fact, that work has already been done: Citizens' Climate Lobby has crunched the numbers for a "fee and dividend" version of a tax scheme where the monies collected are returned to families. From that work we see that a reasonable tax is only the start of a bigger program bringing widespread benefits—the first step and a demonstration of political intent in a larger effort to reduce emissions, improve air quality and add jobs to the economy.

—Joel Olson

Moore, Okla.

Environmental law explained: How to stop climate change using the law

Gluing yourself to the road is one way to protest environmental collapse. Suing fossil fuel companies is another.
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

climate civil disobedience
Photo by Ma Ti on Unsplash

Interest in civil disobedience has reached a mini climate tipping point

As each hellish new natural disaster is matched by an equally hellish political stalemate on climate legislation, a growing segment of the American population is thinking: What can I personally do to get some climate action going here?

climate media action Justin McBrien
Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash

Justin McBrien: Disaster flicks like ‘Don’t Look Up’ won’t spur climate change action. Here’s why

The climate crisis is very different from an errant asteroid. Stopping it demands far more than listening to scientists and trusting their technical solutions.

Judges appear skeptical of Big Oil's climate claims
Photo by Robert Linder on Unsplash

Judges appear skeptical of Big Oil's climate claims

A panel of judges appeared skeptical yesterday of giving federal courts exclusive rights to hear climate change cases against fossil fuel firms.

children climate books
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

New children’s book explains systemic nature of climate change

Most kids’ books about the environment encourage children to adopt Earth-friendly habits like taking shorter showers and recycling. But in a new release called “A Kids Book About Climate Change,” the authors focus on the bigger picture.

Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan wax idiotic on climate change and race

We regret to inform you that the controversial podcast host and quack philosopher have some thoughts on racial identity.

From our Newsroom
Africa cooking pollution

What do new cookstoves in Ghana and air conditioners in NYC have in common? Energy justice.

Combating energy poverty and energy insecurity are critical elements to achieving environmental health equity for billions worldwide.

dr. fauci

Peter Dykstra: Life imitates climate politics—again.

Personal, misinformed attacks on Dr. Fauci are reminiscent of climate spats over the decades.

Don't look up climate change

Hollywood’s third strike on climate change?

"Don't Look Up" is ambitious—but trips over its subject matter.

environmental news

5 popular reads from our newsroom in 2021

Check out what sparked readers' interest over the past year.

journalism

Our top 5 long reads of 2021

Check out must-read, in-depth reporting from the past year.

butterfly

Our top 5 good news stories of 2021

It's not all doom and gloom.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.