Great threat of climate change requires
response similar to wartime
UN Panel’s latest report shows the need for Congress to put aside differences and move toward a solution. Common ground can be found in a carbon tax that gives revenue back to the people.
MARCH 31, 2014 — With the world’s leading experts giving their most dire warning yet on the impact of climate change, it’s time for the United States to move at wartime speed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, starting with a revenue-neutral carbon tax.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could not be clearer or more emphatic: Our world is already seeing the disastrous effects of climate change, and things will get much, much worse in years to come if we do not swiftly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are literally cooking our goose.
From The New York Times:
“The report… concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.
“The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.
“Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said.
“And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said in the second of three reports that are expected to carry considerable weight next year as nations try to agree on a new global climate treaty. In particular, the report emphasized that the world’s food supply is at considerable risk — a threat that could have serious consequences for the poorest nations.”
“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the intergovernmental panel, said at a news conference releasing the IPCC report.
Despite our enourmous political differences, America’s history shows we are capable of coming together and achieving remarkable things when faced with great threats and challenges. Such was the case in stopping global tyranny during World War II and again with the Moon landing, events that firmly established the U.S. as the world’s leader.
Today we face a threat greater than the fascism of the 20th Century and a challenge more daunting than putting a man on the Moon. We have the capacity to overcome the self-inflicted wounds of climate change and avoid a catastrophic future, but only if this crisis is met with similar urgency and effort.
Such urgency and effort requires that Republicans and Democrats in Congress set aside their differences for the good of our nation and our world, but that is yet to happen. Perhaps this is because the two sides have yet to find common ground on effective solutions.
With Congress at an impasse, President Obama has taken the initiative by directing the Environmental Protection Agency to develop regulations that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants. Republicans, who oppose further regulations and view new EPA rules as an expansion of government, are pushing back hard on the President’s effort.
Rather than attacking the EPA for doing what Congress has failed to do, opponents of regulation should embrace a market-based solution favored by a number of prominent conservatives: Put a tax on carbon and give the revenue back to the people.
Conservative economists, from Romney advisor Greg Mankiw to Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz, argue that the free market normally gravitates to things that are good for our society. There are times, however, when the price of something does not reflect its damage, the cost of which is borne by society. Such is the case with fossil fuels, whose price does not reflect the health, security and environmental costs that arise from their use. If we fix this price distortion – through a steadily-increasing tax – the market will gravitate toward cleaner energy and energy efficiency without the need for regulations or subsidies.
Detractors who argue against a carbon tax say it will kill jobs, drag down the economy and burden families with higher energy bills. But a well-designed carbon tax that recycles revenue back to households and into the economy would protect families from rising costs and actually add jobs. A recent study by Regional Economic Models, Inc. found that a carbon tax in California, even at very high levels, would increase GDP and add hundreds of thousands of jobs, provided the revenue is returned to the public, either as tax cuts or direct payments.
The other main argument against a carbon tax – that it will put American businesses at a disadvantage with foreign competitors – can be easily dismissed by placing border tariffs on imports from nations that do not have an equivalent price on carbon. Such tariffs would provide the incentive for other nations to adopt similar policies, making the revenue-neutral carbon tax a solution that is global in scope.
The health, food, security and economic costs of climate change – both now and in the future – far outweigh the costs of transitioning to a society that emits less and less greenhouse gases.
From the IPCC report:
“Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger.”
A carbon tax with revenue refunded to households can speed the crucial transition to a low-carbon society AND have a positive impact on our economy. It’s time for lawmakers in Congress to exhibit the kind of cooperation shown in previous times of great adversity by embracing this sensible solution.