Summary. Increased burning of fossil fuels, producing higher rates of emission of greenhouse gases, generates worsening patterns of extreme weather events that affect human well being. In response to this trend, policies are being proposed to abate emissions. This post summarizes two recent newspaper articles proposing use of a carbon tax, or a more limited gasoline tax, for lowering emissions. It is judged that a carbon tax is simpler and more effective than establishing a cap-and-trade regime for limiting emissions.
Introduction. Humanity’s rate of use of fossil fuels for energy has grown to high levels in recent decades, and is projected to continue increasing for the indefinite future. As a result, the annual rate of emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, as well as other greenhouse gases such as methane, has likewise been increasing. Most CO2, once it enters the atmosphere, remains there indefinitely for a century or longer, for there is no naturally occurring mechanism that removes it.
Climate scientists hold greenhouse gases responsible for the recent long-term increase in the world-wide average temperature. In turn, the warmer planet harbors an increased potential for more, and more intense, extreme weather and climate events such as rainfall and resulting floods, heat waves and resulting droughts, and wildfires. These events have catastrophic effects on human populations, and inflict serious economic harms.
These considerations lead climate scientists and economists to develop mitigating policies intended to slow the growth in the rate of emissions. This would have the effect of lowering the rate of increase in the CO2 content of the atmosphere. It must be noted that, because CO2 remains resident in the atmosphere for a century or longer, its atmospheric concentration cannot be reduced within reasonable time frames; even if emissions ceased entirely, the result would be merely to stabilize the CO2 concentration at the new, higher level. One policy intended to abate the rate of emission of CO2 is to impose an economic hurdle to use of fossil fuels. This post describes recent opinion articles proposing use of a carbon tax or a gas tax to accomplish this.
For more on this story, visit: Global Warming Blog by Henry Auer: The Case for a Carbon Tax.