The evidence for global warming is overwhelming and largely beyond dispute. On the other hand, our industrialized world is highly dependent on the fossil fuels which produce it. This is what makes global warming such a hot political potato.
Yesterday the New York Times columnist Eduardo Porter described a carbon tax which has been implemented in British Columbia and has gained wide political acceptance. Its general features are:
- It was introduced in 2008 by the Liberal Party which is actually quite conservative. It survived a challenge by the left-leaning New Democratic Party in 2009.
- The economy in British Columbia grew faster than its neighbors even as its greenhouse gas emissions declined.
- The tax rose from $10 (Canadian) per ton of carbon dioxide in 2008 to $30 (Canadian) in 2012. It raised the cost of a gallon of gasoline by 19 cents (U.S.)
- Despite the price increases, voters warmed to the tax. In 2015 only 32% of British Columbians opposed it, down from 47% in 2009.
- Every single carbon tax dollar is returned to families and businesses through a variety of tax breaks.
British Columbia’s experience shows that a carbon tax can work in practice. Here are a couple of reasons why such a tax should appeal to a broad political cross spectrum in the U.S.
- A properly calibrated carbon price in the United States could effectively replace all the climate-related regulations businesses hate so much, including renewable fuel mandates and President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
- A carbon tax could become part of a broad fiscal overhaul, using the revenue, for example, to offset cuts in payroll taxes.
Conclusion. The rapidly changing climate and weather patterns caused by global warming are a threat to human civilization. Reasonable measures can be taken to mitigate the effects with minimal economic disruption. As the world’s strongest economy and leading superpower, the U.S. should be providing more leadership towards addressing this very serious problem.