Komanoff: The Time Has Never Been More Right for a Carbon Tax (U.S. News)
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Komanoff asks: If efficiency hasn’t cut energy use, then what? (Grist)
Komanoff: Senate Bill Death = Win for Climate (The Nation)
Q&A: Charles Komanoff (Mother Jones)
On Monday, The Nation magazine posted “Congestion Pricing Is New York’s Green New Deal,” a piece I co-authored with fellow transit advocate Jeff Blum, casting congestion pricing in New York City as an initial foray of the Green New Deal. Following is the text of the piece, with an addendum instructing Carbon Tax Center subscribers and allies what they can do between now and March 31 — congestion pricing’s legislative deadline — to push the proposal across the finish line in Albany. — C.K.
While the Green New Deal basks in the national spotlight, a different but parallel policy idea is advancing in New York. That is Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan for congestion pricing, which will charge motorists to drive in the most car-jammed (and transit-rich) part of the city, Manhattan south of 60th Street.
At first glance the two appear more opposite than related. The Green New Deal is national, congestion pricing is New York-specific. One is expansive, a solar and wind energy-based revitalization of our society and economy. The other seems punitive, making drivers pay for what is now free.
But we believe the two have a great deal in common, both practically and philosophically. Moreover, congestion pricing faces a March 31 legislative deadline to allow initial appropriations for the tolling apparatus to be included in the New York State budget due on that date.
And so we invite Green New Deal adherents — from Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the legions of determined climate justice activists who have put the Green New Deal on the political map — to make congestion pricing in New York a stepping stone to the national fight.
To begin, any program to save the climate depends on having cities thrive. Urban residents use only a fraction as much fossil fuels as suburbanites or rural dwellers, not because they are virtuous but because cities, due to their compactness, are inherently lower-carbon. City residents drive less not just because they can take transit but because destinations are close by. Density also dictates that homes and offices use less power and heat. For cities to thrive and grow, automobile traffic must be tamed and restrained, which congestion pricing does with marvelous efficiency.
Congestion pricing shares DNA with the New Deal through emphasis on public investment. Federal spending in the 1930s strung electric wire and conserved the soil, and federally driven investment going forward can decarbonize our economy. In the same way, the congestion toll revenues in New York can pay to modernize the city’s buses and subways — as happened after London adopted congestion pricing in 2003. Thanks to massive transit investment and reappropriation of street space there, nearly 25% more people now enter the center of London daily, mostly on trains, buses and bikes, while car travel speeds have remained stable.
There’s more. Congestion pricing rests upon the Rooseveltian idea to care for the commons — rivers and forests and farmland. Streets and transit are cities’ commons, which America has allowed cars to plunder for a century.
After years of temporizing, transit advocates in New York have finally resolved that the antidote to broken subways and too many automobiles must include charging vehicles to drive in city centers. Both major transit coalitions, the more business-oriented Fix Our Transit and Fix the Subways, led by the impressive grassroots organizing group Riders Alliance, have put congestion pricing at the top of their political agendas. Before long, we predict, Green New Deal supporters will similarly acknowledge that fully unleashing green energy requires a robust carbon tax, not just as a source of funds but to re-set societal defaults, to re-orient incentives and to unlock innovation.
The Markey–Ocasio-Cortez Green New Deal resolution is adamant about labor rights and economic justice. So too is the movement for congestion pricing. New York City’s most venerable anti-poverty advocate, the Community Service Society, examined congestion pricing and found that for each low-wage New Yorker who regularly drives into Manhattan, nearly 40 will benefit from better trains and buses paid for with the congestion-toll revenues. In the same vein, the right-of-center Manhattan Institute concluded last year that extending New York’s decade-long jobs boom depends on massive and effective investment in mass transit to allow immigrant and other workers to access jobs.
These considerations appear to have finally pushed New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio off the political fence last month to proclaim support for congestion pricing.
The iconic New York progressive centrist Daniel Patrick Moynihan understood this thirty years ago. As a powerful Senate Committee chairman, he found a way to use a portion of federal gas taxes to decouple urban mobility from automobiles, spurring a rise in transit and bicycling and making cities cleaner and more dynamic.
There is this difference, however. Unlike the Green New Deal, which is open-sourced by design, congestion pricing for New York is being finalized by the state’s governor, who seems intent on keeping the toll levels and other key plan details under wraps till the last minute.
Attempts to toll the entrances to Manhattan’s central core have come up short so many times that any leader worth his Machiavelli might rightly presume that iron-fisted control is the only way to get it done. But that approach is out of step with both the current political era and the enormous momentum to pass congestion pricing in the state budget this month and finally cure the dysfunction of the city’s streets and subways that daily afflicts millions.
A fifth of the way into our new century, awareness is spreading of the folly of giving away for free a finite resource, whether it’s the atmosphere’s capacity to remain temperate or Broadway’s five travel lanes through Times Square.
A Green New Deal, like its illustrious antecedent, can start in New York. Today, congestion pricing can revitalize and unsnarl New York’s subways and streets. Tomorrow, a nationwide mobilization can turn our carbon economy green.
Komanoff, an energy and transportation economist, was “re-founder” of the bicycle advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. Blum was founding executive director of USAction and leader of multiple state and national pro-transit campaigns.
Whether you live in NY State or somewhere else, please visit the Fix The Subway campaign to find out how you can donate time, money or both to pass congestion pricing for New York City now. Or, text DELAY to 52886. Remember, the vote for the budget bill that will include initial allocations for congestion pricing is expected between Friday March 29 and Sunday March 31. Thank you.
This page, in formation as of March 2019, will include commentary on and links to proposals and politics of a Green New Deal.
Resources for getting started
- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal resolution, dated 7-Feb-2019, may be downloaded here (from Congress.gov).
- Climate Exchange webinar featuring Vox journalist David Roberts and Sunrise Movement activist Evan Weber, discussing Green New Deal politics on 5-March-2019. It runs an hour and takes some time to get in gear, but when it does it’s illuminating.
Carbon Taxes and the Green New Deal
We at the Carbon Tax Center are excited by the vision of a Green New Deal and the energy with which its proponents and adherents are advancing it.
We are intrigued by the vast potential synergies of combining the price signaling of carbon taxing and the societal mobilization implicit in the Green New Deal. The following letter to the editor of The New York Times, written but not published in mid-February, attempted to make that point:
To The Editor:
Jedediah Britton-Purdy rightly wants a carbon tax included in a Green New Deal (The Green New Deal Is What Realistic Environmental Policy Looks Like, Feb. 14). But his insinuation that carbon taxes embody “the traditional environmental emphasis on controlling pollution” is reductive and unhelpful.
A robust carbon tax — not the token levy sometimes trotted out by Big Oil, but one surpassing a hundred dollars per ton of carbon dioxide within a decade — is unlike traditional pollution controls. Rather than tediously cleaning up millions of smokestacks and tailpipes one at a time, a carbon tax will help diminish and ultimately eliminate sources of pollution by undermining the economic structures that require fossil fuels.
Britton-Purdy is only half-right that “our carbon emissions are not mainly about the price of gasoline or electricity.” Prices affect emissions by influencing behavior, guiding innovation and determining societal defaults. Without a carbon tax as a key pillar, a Green New Deal will have to work twice as hard.
Director, Carbon Tax Center
This post was has been updated to include a video link to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s extended conversation with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and to provide the full quote of her endorsement of externality pricing.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly installed Congressmember from parts of Queens and the Bronx in New York City and the Democratic Party’s brightest new star in at least a generation, breathed fresh life into carbon taxing today from the stage of Manhattan’s fabled Riverside Church. Her remarks came during “MLK NOW,” a day celebrating Martin Luther King’s life and work combating militarism, materialism and white supremacy.
The commemoration was held six days after what would have been Dr. King’s 90th birthday, and more than a half-century after King ascended the Riverside pulpit to deliver perhaps his most prophetic speech, Beyond Vietnam. Ocasio-Cortez alluded to the condemnation that rained down on King in the last year of his life for demanding the U.S. end the Vietnam War, saying “King didn’t just sacrifice his life; the way he lived his life was a sacrifice.”
Ocasio-Cortez spoke in an extended on-stage conversation with renowned author and public-intellectual Ta-Nehisi Coates. Their full, 51-minute conversation may be viewed on YouTube (from the 14:00 mark to 1:05:30). Covering a broad range, the two discussed her call to raise the marginal tax rate on high income to 70 percent; “the case for reparations” — a matter that Coates brought to prominence in his 2014 Atlantic Monthly article with that title; and her conviction that what’s immoral about billionaires is not them as individuals but the system that allows and valorizes them.
Toward the end, Ocasio-Cortez steered the conversation to the climate crisis and called for “structuring an economy that is sustainable, where “the externalities of the damage of some industries or markets get internalized.” (at 1:00:56, emphasis added) There, in a nutshell, is the polluter-pays principle that underlies the idea of taxing carbon emissions.
The remark is noteworthy given Ocasio-Cortez’s prominence in advocating a Green New Deal, the idea of a wartime-style mobilization of government and business to build a net-zero-carbon economy over the next decade. We at the Carbon Tax Center believe that a robust carbon tax must be a pillar in any Green New Deal, not just as a “pay-for” but as a means to incentivize the massive changes in behavior, investment and societal defaults necessary to move U.S. society off fossil fuels.
On a personal note, the Riverside Church event was my first time seeing Ocasio-Cortez in person and hearing her speak extemporaneously and at length. What I saw, heard and felt easily surpassed the hype. Throughout her 50 minutes on stage, she came off as grounded, determined, forceful, informed, fluent and thoroughly conversant with the history and vocabulary of U.S. popular protest and social movements. And, somehow, commanding yet modest.
Not long after Ocasio-Cortez began, I whipped out my pen and pad and jotted down some of her most telling sentences as best I could. Here are some, concluding with the “externality” quote.
Activism is part of governance.
People think of elective office as a leadership position [yet] the real leaders are the writers, journalists, activists and artists.
Marginal tax rates are an economic question, but they’re also a moral question.
Where do we draw the line in material excess is a question that King asked, that Gandhi asked.
We think of reparations as repairing the damages of slavery, but it’s also the reparation of the damages from the [exclusionary] New Deal and redlining.
I use social media as much to listen as to speak.
We don’t have to compromise our values to find common ground with other people.
The world is going to end in 12 years [due to climate change] and you’re worried about how we’re going to pay for it?
Until we all start pitching in and holding people accountable, I’m going to let [our enemies] have it.
There was once almost a consensus among our great thinkers [including] Einstein and Dr. King that capitalism had an expiration date.
Democratic Socialism means introducing modes of democracy beyond just elections and throughout the economy . . . structuring an economy that is sustainable, where the externalities of the damage of some industries or markets get internalized.
In bookends to her remarks, Ocasio-Cortez explained why she’s not fearful about taking strong stands. As a Puerto Rican teen in a white suburban high school, she said, she learned not to pay attention when someone tried to put her down. Now, in Congress, she sees herself not as an individual seeking to rise in politics who must practice caution but as a participant in an unstoppable movement to advance democracy and create a just society.
Note: Dr. King’s 1964 speech referenced in my tweet may be found here.
Were the midterms “pretty good for the climate-concerned,” as The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer said in his election post-mortem? It would seem so, with the 40-seat “blue wave” ushering in Democratic control of the House and an opportunity to restore climate policy and facts to the political agenda. But for carbon taxes in particular? Maybe not so much.
Two contrasting carbon-tax varieties — “revenue-neutral” and “just transition” — were dealt serious beat-downs on Nov. 6. As CTC director Charles Komanoff reported in this space last month, only 20 of the 43 current Republican members of the Climate Solutions Caucus will be returning to Congress next month, an obliteration that dimmed prospects for bipartisan, “fee and dividend” carbon tax legislation. Among the fallen: Caucus-founder Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-25), who lost two percentage points to newcomer Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.
Evidently, the mild climate concern expressed by the vanquished Republicans couldn’t inoculate them from voters determined to put Democrats in charge of the House. In Meyer’s telling, the Climate Solutions Caucus may simply have been inherently unstable. Republicans have to be at least somewhat centrist to want to join the caucus, but the purple districts that might elect centrist Republicans are going to be less secure for Republicans than hard-right districts.
Confounding the obituaries, or perhaps as a last hurrah, the Caucus introduced its first meaningful carbon tax bill in November. As previously reported here, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2018 (H.R. 7173), co-sponsored by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL-22), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-08), Francis Rooney (R-FL-19), Charlie Crist (D-FL-13) and John Delaney (D-MD-06)), would set an initial tax rate of $15/metric ton, rising briskly by at least $10/tonne annually thereafter. Several weeks later, retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and returning Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced an identical bill in the Senate.
At the same time, the similarly aligned Climate Leadership Council is rumored to be building a bipartisan push for its $40/ton “carbon dividend” bill sometime next year. So it may be too early to count out team revenue-neutral.
On the other end of the carbon tax advocacy spectrum, Washington state’s “just-transition”-oriented Initiative 1631, which would have funded a suite of measures for renewable energy, forest protection and worker transition, went down to defeat by a resounding 56%-44%. As a laboratory of democracy, Washington has now performed yeoman service for carbon tax watchers for three years running: the revenue-neutral Initiative 732 was defeated by an even wider margin (59-41) in 2016, and a legislative carbon tax earmarked to fund public schools failed in 2017.
Clearly, no carbon tax faction has yet earned any bragging rights. As reported here, I-1631 had widespread backing from environmental, civil rights and labor organizations, as well as heavy hitters such as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg. No matter, that combination proved no match for massive opposition funding bestowed by mostly out-of-state fossil fuel interests, including $12 million from BP, a Climate Leadership Council founding member.
Nevertheless, the midterms are bound to make the overall political environment far more hospitable to climate concerns, as Meyer argues. The question now is how the ascendant Democrats will put their powers to use on climate issues more generally, not just carbon taxes.
Last month, not just the Blue Wave but wildfires, drought and other climate calamities held public attention in much of the U.S. A new generation of activists and incoming Congressmembers began demanding a full-press climate policy agenda that could be enacted once the Trump Administration and its climate-denying allies are put out to pasture.
Hopes were high that House Democrats would use their new position to advance a Green New Deal — the policy rubric prominently advocated by incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and the emerging Sunrise Movement (and that from its earliest conceptions has always included carbon taxation or other carbon pricing). Those hopes receded somewhat last week when their caucus formed a select committee on climate headed by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL-14), a 12-year member who hasn’t voiced support for a Green New Deal or any other climate policy idea. (There’s no mention of climate on Castor’s Wikipedia page.)
There also appears to be a growing sense that carbon taxes may belong to an older policy playbook from an earlier, more technocratic era. In that period, a carbon tax could be considered a premier policy tool favored by economists and other well-informed advocates across the political spectrum. Now it may need to take its place as one of an array of options on a newly broadened playing field.
If so, we carbon tax advocates will need to expand our horizons in our search for allies. Rather than “staying in our lane” in the climate change arena, we may need to join a broader discussion that includes issues of tax fairness, efficiency and income inequality. A New Yorker magazine profile of the Sunrise Movement this week notes that “like other activist movements of their generation, they see their cause as inseparable from the broader issues of economic and social inequality.”
Rather than just check the boxes on those issues — as carbon tax organizers did dutifully in both the 2016 and 2018 Washington state initiatives — in the new emergent period of progressive ascendancy we may need to commit our energies to these issues as fully as we do for carbon taxes.
Indeed, it may have been precisely the failure to consider the broader social equity context that doomed France’s recent fossil fuel surcharge at the hands of the Yellow Vests — many of whom express climate concern and engagement but reject being made to bear the brunt of wonky policy measures while their economic betters glide by.
It’s a conundrum as old as environmental policy itself — to do its environmental work, a policy has to work economically but be accepted politically. By making common cause with advocates of economic fairness, as embodied in the Green New Deal movement, we carbon tax proponents may ultimately win a more secure position for carbon taxation than we have done to date.
Such a discussion needs to go beyond the polarized internecine debate among carbon tax proponents over whether such a tax should be revenue-neutral or used to fund new initiatives. It will need to extend into considerations of how the tax functions, whom it impacts as compared to other taxes already in use, and the many ways our society raises revenue for public purposes.
In other words, carbon tax advocacy may have to embody a sweeping re-consideration of current tax and fiscal policies, including an examination of whose interests those policies serve.
Andrew Ratzkin, an attorney and co-chair of the Hastings-on-Hudson Conservation Commission in New York’s Westchester County, is author of the report, Case for a New York Carbon Tax.
This post from Oct. 24 was amended on Oct. 25 to add the map and reference to David Roberts’ Vox post on the Trudeau carbon pricing plan.
The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau yesterday announced a national carbon pricing plan that it hopes will yield annual CO2 emissions cuts of 50 to 60 million metric tons by 2022, around a 10 percent drop from Canada’s current emissions.
The plan employs a national carbon price benchmark of $20 (Canadian) per metric ton beginning next year, rising by $10/tonne per year to reach $50 in 2022, according to tables published by the Canadian Department of Finance. Factoring in the 9.3 percent lesser weight of a short ton vis-a-vis a metric ton and the 23 percent lesser value of a Canadian dollar vs. a U.S. dollar, the price trajectory in U.S. terms is $14 per (short) ton, rising by $7/ton per year to reach $35 in 2022.
Perhaps the most innovative element of the plan is the “return” of virtually all of the carbon revenues as dividends to households rather than using the monies to pay for tax swaps or green investments. The plan thus embodies the fee-and-dividend idea long espoused by Citizens Climate Lobby and more recently re-branded as carbon dividends by the Climate Leadership Council, the group fronted by retired Republican officials James A. Baker III and George Shultz.
Ottawa’s dividends proposal includes these provisions:
- The dividends, called “climate action incentive payments,” will be provided annually to federal-taxpaying households by the Canada Revenue Agency.
- Residents of small communities and rural areas get a 10 per cent revenue supplement “in recognition of their specific needs” — presumably, higher fuel needs for heating and driving.
- The dividend amounts will vary by province, presumably with individuals and families of high-carbon provinces receiving larger payments.
“Canada needs to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, and the best way to do that is to put a price on carbon pollution,” declared the country’s Department of Finance in a statement yesterday. “Experts, including Nobel Prize winning economists, have made it clear that pollution pricing is the most effective and efficient way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are giving rise to climate change,” said the statement, which added:
Carbon pollution is not free. Canadians see its effects when extreme weather threatens their safety, their health, their communities, and their livelihoods. They pay for it in the form of structural repairs and higher insurance premiums, food prices, health care costs and emergency services. Climate change is expected to cost Canada’s economy $5 billion annually by 2020.
Several Canadian provinces have already implemented carbon pollution pricing, via a tax (British Columbia) or permit systems via cap-and-trade (Quebec, Ontario, most of the Maritime provinces). The fuel levies published this week by the Trudeau government will now undergo a consultation process expected to last at least several months.
Yesterday’s Finance Dept release includes these three “quick facts”:
- Carbon pollution pricing is the most effective and efficient way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate change.
- Carbon pollution pricing delivers economic benefits because it encourages Canadians and businesses to innovate, and to invest in clean technologies and long-term growth opportunities that will position Canada for success in a cleaner and greener global economy.
- Once in place, carbon pollution pricing could cut Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 60 million tonnes [metric tons] in 2022.
Total Canadian CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels were estimated at 549 million tonnes in 2015, according to an international listing compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Assuming the targeted reductions in the last bullet point above are all CO2, the 50-60 million tonne reduction would amount to 10 percent of those emissions. (U.S. 2015 emissions were estimated at 4,998 million tonnes in the UCS listing, though our figure for that year was 2 percent greater.)
By 2022, annual carbon revenues under the plan could be as much as $27 billion (Canadian) or $21 billion (U.S.), although exemptions for trade-exposed energy-intensive sectors and for aviation fuel used in indigenous communities might reduce those figures.
The plan is a daring gambit for PM Trudeau, as David Roberts of Vox explained in a post today, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is betting his reelection on a carbon tax.
The Canadian government’s embrace of household dividends could also provide a shot in the arm for dividends advocates in the U.S., whose credibility has faltered as Congressional Republicans have disdained the supposedly GOP-friendly dividends approach. This morning, Thomas Friedman, a leading champion of bipartisan climate action among U.S. pundits, called on readers of his New York Times column to “vote for a Democrat, canvass for a Democrat, raise money for a Democrat, drive someone else to a voting station to vote for a Democrat” in the midterm elections.
Echoing Friedman’s call, a constituent of Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the Republican Congressmember who broke ranks with his party in July by introducing a carbon-fee-and-dividend bill, told a Times reporter that Curbelo’s climate concern wasn’t enough to win his vote on Nov. 6: “He is unable to overcome the extreme wing of his party. We need to change the team.”
For more information on Canada’s carbon-pricing plan:
David Wallace-Wells, the writer for New York magazine who jolted us last year with his searing climate-change story, The Uninhabitable Earth, has posted a follow-up, UN Says Climate Genocide Is Coming. It’s Actually Worse Than That.
You guessed right, the sequel is about the new IPCC report. We began the week covering the report’s first-time recommendation of a high carbon price to drive emission reductions. We can’t fully do justice to Wallace-Wells’ latest with a summary — it’s too layered for that. To convey a sense of his argument and his urgency, we’re excerpting five key passages (disclosure: some are longer than mere sentences), with comments.
David Wallace-Wells: Barring the arrival of dramatic new carbon-sucking technologies, which are so far from scalability at present that they are best described as fantasies of industrial absolution, it will not be possible to keep warming below two degrees Celsius — the level the new report describes as a climate catastrophe. As a planet, we are coursing along a trajectory that brings us north of four degrees by the end of the century. The IPCC is right that two degrees marks a world of climate catastrophe. Four degrees is twice as bad as that. And that is where we are headed, at present — a climate hell twice as hellish as the one the IPCC says, rightly, we must avoid at all costs. (emphasis added)
Carbon Tax Center: It’s worse than that. The most likely “shape” of the planetary climate-damage curve (or function) is a quadratic. (See graphic, from our June 2017 post, Showing the Cost Side of the Damage Equation in a New Light.) Doubling the temperature rise doesn’t double the damage, it quadruples it. Tripling the rise magnifies the damage nine-fold. The silver lining, if there is one, is that each increment of temperature rise we can prevent through societal action pays back more than proportionately in damage avoidance.
DW-W [this sentence is from his previous passage]: New carbon-sucking technologies … are so far from scalability at present that they are best described as fantasies of industrial absolution.
CTC: We agree.
DW-W: Because the numbers are so small, we tend to trivialize the differences between one degree and two, two degrees and four. Human experience and memory offers no good analogy for how we should think about those thresholds, but with degrees of warming, as with world wars or recurrences of cancer, you don’t want to see even one.
CTC: Goodness, yet another way in which human cognition militates against fully grasping and grappling with climate change. We thought Dale Jamieson’s magnificent 2014 book, Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed, and What It Means for Our Future, covered all the obstacles to understanding and action: It’s hard to attribute the myriad consequences we see in the world to climate change… Evolution built us to respond to “rapid movements of middle-sized objects,” not to the slow buildup of insensible gases in the atmosphere. And of course, climate change is the world’s largest and most complex “collective action problem,” in which each of us, acting on our own desires, contributes to outcomes we neither desire nor intend. And many more, to which Wallace-Wells has added the new one, above.
DW-W: Nothing in the IPCC report is news … not to the scientific community or to climate activists or even to anyone who’s been a close reader of new research about warming over the last few years. That is what the IPCC does: It does not introduce new findings or even new perspectives, but rather corrals the messy mass of existing, pedigreed scientific research into consensus assessments designed to deliver to the policymakers of the world an absolutely unquestionable account of the state of knowledge.
CTC: That’s helpful to those of us in the trenches. It aids us in seeing why the release of old news — include the lede that limiting the earth’s average temperature rise to 1.5°C is pretty much off the table — was served up by important media as news, period.
DW-W: The IPCC has also, thankfully, offered a practical suggestion, proposing the imposition of a carbon tax many, many times higher than those currently in use or being considered — they propose raising the cost of a ton of carbon possibly as high $5,000 by 2030, a price they suggest may have to grow to $27,000 per ton by 2100. Today, the average price of carbon across 42 major economies is just $8 per ton. The new Nobel laureate in economics, William Nordhaus, made his name by almost inventing the economic study of climate change, and his preferred carbon tax is $40 per ton — which would probably land us at about 3.5 degrees of warming. He considers that grotesque level “optimal.”
CTC: Yesterday we posted the comment by our colleague Thomas Sterner, declaring that Nordhaus’s “choice to label the 3.5°C [temperature rise] as optimal is … unfortunate.” Today we would rather dwell on the brighter side, that the IPCC for the first time called not just for a carbon price but for a high one, as we reported on Monday.
DW-W: A carbon tax is only a spark to action, not action itself.
CTC: Yes … and no. No, because a robust carbon tax will be far more than a mere spark — it will stimulate enormous changes in behavior, investment, decision-making and innovation, all of it toward vastly lessened use of carbon fuels. Yes, because the tax itself doesn’t reduce emissions, rather it instills incentives that will provoke the reductions.
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