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Climate Change – Are Carbon Taxes a Solution?

Author: John S Szalasny

It’s not that long ago that Barack Obama pledged an “all of the above” strategy to combat the United States perceived dependence on foreign energy sources. This quickly turned into a strategy of reducing carbon emissions (increasing transportation fuel efficiency standards, rebates for renewable energy, etc.) as he followed the science. It seems that some of the “all of the above” energy sources (oil, natural gas, coal) are key contributors to climate change, and by his second term, he was one of the world leaders pledging his support in Paris to combating climate change.

Today, it’s climate change that needs an “all of the above strategy” in combating the number one challenge facing the world today. It’s not a problem that our children will need to finally deal with anymore. Climatologist experts are saying the effects of greenhouse gas emissions may be irreversible in as little as 18 months. Recently, I attended a lecture sponsored by UB’s Sustainability Office. The speaker was former US Representative Bob Inglis, who gave a presentation on solving climate change that was far removed from the solutions proposed by environmental groups.

Climatologist experts are saying the effects of greenhouse gas emissions may be irreversible in as little as 18 months.

As he pointed out, he is a former Republican Representative from a very conservative South Carolina district because he believes in climate change. Since his primary defeat in 2010, he has been working on promoting conservative and free enterprise solutions to energy and climate change. His platform revolves around the fact that polluters get a free ride on the waste products (CO2, soot, toxic chemicals) that become a cost to society in terms of health and environmental impacts. His solution is to tax carbon emissions at the source, and refund the taxes collected to the public. This makes the tax revenue neutral to the government.   Once the tax is applied, it will be public pressure (due to the added cost) and not government regulation that will bring carbon emissions down. He closed his presentation by stating it is OK to have your heated swimming pool. It’s just going to cost you more to cover your carbon footprint.

Carbon taxes are supported by the business community, and having a revenue neutral option can bring conservative politicians to the table to act on climate change. Although I’m not convinced that carbon taxes will force energy producers to reduce their carbon footprint (they can just pass the added cost to the consumer), they can be an opening for a bi-partisan solution along with the support from the left for a renewable energy transition to cut greenhouse gas emissions needed right now.

Lead image: hotblack

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