Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

October 10, 2013

Forum: How do we move forward with global warming?

By Elizabeth Dell

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released its fifth report on the science of climate change. The conclusion? The planet and oceans are warming and it’s extremely likely (95 percent certain) the warming is related to human activities such as burning fossil fuels. Yet many Americans don’t accept that it is a man-made problem; others are left with a sense of despair.

So how do we move forward? Perhaps it’s time to look at it as an economic problem causing an environmental problem. As former GOP Rep. Bob Inglis describes it, the fossil fuel companies are socializing the cost of their product (damage to air and water quality for example) while privatizing their profits. But there is a free-market alternative favored by conservatives and liberals: a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

Putting a tax on carbon at the source (mine, well, port of entry) and increasing it over 10 years will spur investment in and demand for renewable energy while driving down its cost. Meanwhile, 100 percent of the tax revenue would be returned to American households on an equitable basis through monthly rebate checks.

A border tax adjustment on goods imported from nations without similar carbon-pricing mechanisms will ensure American businesses aren’t put at a competitive disadvantage. The adjustment could move other nations to institute a carbon tax rather than just paying the U.S. government for the privilege of polluting. (China is talking about implementing a carbon tax and is experimenting with a cap-and-trade carbon pricing mechanism in seven major cities.)

A carbon tax will allow the market to pick winners and losers while creating U.S. jobs and energy independence, give us cleaner air and water, and make America a world leader in the growing renewable energy economy.

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