Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Why We Need a Carbon Tax, and Why It Won’t Be Enough - by Bill McKibben

Putting a price on carbon is an idea whose time has come, with even Big Oil signaling it may drop its long-standing opposition to a carbon tax.  But the question is, has it come too late?

Puttig gold coins in chimney smoke (Credit: Luisa Rivera/Yale E360) Click to Enlarge.
It feels as if we may be getting close, or at least closer, as a nation to putting some kind of price on global warming pollution. 

Bernie Sanders campaigned all year on a straight-up carbon tax, and though Hillary Clinton hasn’t signed on to that, her team on the Democratic Party platform committee did agree to compromise language calling for pricing carbon and methane to reflect their “negative externalities.”  (Full disclosure:  serving as a Sanders representative on the platform committee, I put forward the tax resolution on his behalf, and, after it failed, put forward the language on carbon pricing.) 

Meanwhile, Exxon — weighed down by investigative journalists showing it lied through its corporate teeth for decades about climate change — seems to be putting at least a little lobbying muscle behind its long-standing theoretical call for a carbon price.  It’s true that the House Republican caucus voted unanimously (with one abstention) against a carbon tax, but since a great many of them are in essence employees of the fossil fuel industry that stance could shift quickly.  Pressured by the Paris agreement, the American Petroleum Institute, which is the polite way of saying Big Oil, has recently formed a “task force” to “revisit the industry’s long-held opposition to taxing greenhouse gas emissions.”  Meanwhile, devoted activists from the Citizens Climate Lobby have been working steadily to erode opposition among individual Republican officeholders, a noble, if so far quixotic, task. 

Oh, and the Trump candidacy just might be Titanic enough to return control of the U.S. Senate to Team Democrat, whose likely captain — majority-leader-in waiting Chuck Schumer — has begun making serious noises about carbon pricing as a revenue source for a strapped government. 
We are, you might say, in a war, and if that’s the case then think of a price on carbon as the infantry.  It can get things done, but it’s going to need the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines, as well.  If the climate movement stays unified around a suite of solutions, instead of resisting the temptation to grab at one, we have a chance.  An outside chance, but a chance.

Read more at Why We Need a Carbon Tax, and Why It Won’t Be Enough

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