An editorial in the New York Times got me thinking about why a carbon tax is a better way to fight global warming and climate change than either cap–and–trade or efficiency regulations.
Here are several reasons I can think of:
- Carbon taxes always provide an incentive to pollute less and use less energy. Even if you cut carbon emissions by half, you still are paying taxes for the carbon you do emit, and therefore still have an incentive to eliminate it. Compare this with efficiency regulations, where someone has no incentive to reduce energy use once the regulation is met. In addition, all too often regulations are designed by businesses themselves, so as to prevent competition (rent seeking). Also compare this with cap–and–trade, where a source of carbon credits may well allow heavy polluters to continue, just because they have deep pockets. A lot of money will not allow someone to avoid paying a carbon tax.
- Carbon taxes drive both individuals and companies to use less energy. Cap–and–trade is usually done by businesses, and efficiency regulations only impact new products (unless old ones are mandated to be destroyed).
- According to the editorial, a carbon tax is far cheaper than efficiency standards once a global view of costs is taken into account.
- Carbon taxes (especially those on fuel) make people drive less and live in denser environments. On a per capita basis, cities are more energy–efficient than suburbs. For example, recycling and public transit are more feasible in densely–populated areas. And people who drive less are less sedentary and therefore healthier.
- It is possible that cap–and–trade and efficiency standards alone will not do enough to mitigate climate change.
- A carbon tax is easier to offset as part of a green tax shift than other methods. It can even lead to lower tax levels overall, such as here in British Columbia (cite).
- Efficiency improvements are subject to the rebound effect, where the decreased cost of using a resource partially offsets gains from using it more efficiently. A carbon tax does not generate perverse incentives.
- A carbon tax is easier to adjust. If too many pollution permits are issued, cap–and–trade will not have much of an effect since it is harder to eliminate privately–owned pollution permits.
- Many countries that export oil are rentier states, which means that they earn most of their revenue from natural resource royalties. Those royalties pay for oppressive paramilitary forces that enforce authoritarianism in those countries. A carbon tax will eventually reduce revenues received by those countries, improving freedom there and those countries’ human rights situations.
Hence, for all of the above reasons, a carbon tax is the way to go. My preferred offset is to payroll taxes. But such has virtually no chance of being enacted in the United States (a better chance in Canada [I hope]), due to the extreme polarization and total irrationality (and far worse!) of a number of politicians there. And since climate change is a major danger, Christian conservatism’s climate change denialism makes it, in the long run, the world’s most dangerous ideology.
I came across this post at Dispatches from the Culture wars. It got me thinking, and eventually my mind thought about previous predictions of what the 2010’s would be like. This led me to realize that the past is more like the present than you think. Indeed, if you predicted that the world thirty years from now would be exactly like today, you probably wouldn’t do too badly.
To illustrate, let’s pretend that some futurologist, Ima P. Rofet, writing (to use round year numbers) that the year 2010 will be exactly like 1980. Let’s see what predictions our prognosticator would have been correct on (not an exhaustive list):
- Politics and international relations:
- There will be two major political parties in the United States, the Democratic and the Republican. There will be other parties, but only these two will have a realistic chance of taking power.
- Russia will be governed as an authoritarian state.
- Nuclear weapons will never have been used in warfare since Nagasaki.
- The conflict in the Middle East will have been unresolved.
- There will be no peace treaty in Korea.
- There will have been no female president of the United States.
- Oil will give the Middle East disproportionate influence on world affairs.
- Terrorism will influence some countries foreign policy.
- The United Nations will not be a world government.
- Culture and society
- Television, movies, and recorded music will be popular forms of entertainment.
- Classical music will be important in music education and most people will be exposed to it in movie and television soundtracks, but it will only retain niche popularity.
- Most people in the western world will live in cities and suburbs.
- An appreciable number of people will have used marijuana, even if it is nominally illegal.
- Most people will travel by car or airplane and, in densely–populated cities, train or other public transport.
- Many people will live in poverty and lack adequate access to food, water, and medicine.
- Many women will still be oppressed and be second–class citizens, even if they nominally have equal rights with men. (more…)
Remember that journalist who threw his shoes at George W. Bush, Muntadhar al-Zaidi? He has just demonstrated that peace and unity are possible in Iraq (hat tip to Phoenician in time of Romans).
I’m not going to duplicate PintoR’s post, but this is great. It shows that Iraqis cannot just be Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs, Armenians, or Persians. It shows that Iraqis can be Iraqis.
And like PintoR, I’d like to wish Muntadhar al-Iraqi well, too.
Yesterday, Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw his shoes at George W. Bush and shouted “This is a farewell… you dog!” In the Arab world, throwing shoes at someone is a major way to insult them. In the aftermath, the journalist has been jailed pending a decision about whether to charge him with assault. Jill at Feministe put it well:
…And because U.S.-occupied Iraq is such a free society, the man was beaten, dragged outside, and is currently jailed.
As far as I can tell, unless jury nullification or something similar exists in Iraq, if it goes to trial Muntadhar al-Zaidi’s conviction is pretty likely as there is a videotape of the incident.