Wednesday, February 7, 2007

CARBON TAXES: Powerful Incentives to Steer Us Away From Climate Catastrophe

The weather outside is frightening... Time to transfer fear into, well, how about prices?

Dr. James Hansen, NASA-Goddard's lead climate scientist calculates that we need to reduce carbon emissions by 80% to avoid pushing Earth's climate past a cataclysmic tipping point. Everything we do must shift dramatically, starting yesterday!

The good news: We could vastly reduce emissions by cutting waste and implementing known technologies. The bad news: We're being bribed not to do it.

Present fossil fuel prices don't reflect the global and future costs of burning them. We're not paying for the devastation of the polar regions, the loss of crop land and inundation of cities and even entire countries as sea level rises and storms become more destructive. In fact, fuel prices don't even reflect the costs of obtaining fuel, especially the military and human toll. So we use far too much fuel because it falsely appears less costly than conservation or renewables.

Dr. Hansen and many economists advocate a gradually-increasing carbon tax to shift our entire economy towards energy conservation and renewables. Taxes sound repellant to most of us, but carbon taxes don't have to mean a higher total tax burden. They could replace other taxes, fund new infrastructure (e.g., high-speed trains) or their revenue could be refunded per capita so everyone would get an equal "allowance" and could decide how much to spend on fuel while reaping rewards for using less. The newly-formed Carbon Tax Center provides many resources including a concise slide show explaining the advantages of carbon taxes. They point to the advantages of a carbon tax over "cap and trade" systems that lack transparency (allowing manipulation and profiteering) and don't provide incentives to the entire economy.

Carbon taxes now!

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