Year 4, Month 5, Day 6: The Earth is Sharp. What?

A young man named Jonathan Kamel writes in the Daily Northwestern, advocating a carbon tax:

Recently, I have been thinking about the state of our country and how to make it more secure. We are not on a path for sustainable growth in our economic, fiscal or environmental sectors. As The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman argued in his most recent column, we need to invest in the future of the United States through infrastructure improvement, education and national security measures. Yet the federal government remains handcuffed to achieve these efforts due to the state of the economy and the national deficit.

In honor of Earth Week, I am suggesting a “green” solution to our nation’s current financial problems. Ladies and gentleman, it’s time for a carbon tax. This flat rate would tax all carbon emissions from industries ranging from oil to manufacturing. I am not the first person to proclaim a carbon tax as a solution to current environmental and fiscal problems, but it’s an idea worth talking about.

I will not get into the specifics of how high or low a carbon tax should be set — that is for the economists to figure out. According to Friedman, a carbon tax has the potential to generate $1 trillion over 10 years based on current consumption of gasoline and electricity. Besides the economic incentives of a tax on carbon, this initiative would lower U.S. reliance on foreign oil by making gas more expensive, encourage industries to cut greenhouse gas emissions and fuel an emerging alternative energy industry that has struggled to compete with coal and natural gas.

It’s a start. April 24:

Self-styled fiscal conservatives are fond of arguing that policies to address the burgeoning climate crisis are too costly at a time when America is struggling under a burden of debt. This contention fails for multiple reasons. First is the simple fact that climate change is happening right now, and it’s impacting individuals, families, businesses, and whole sectors of our economy in powerful and unpredictable ways. It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing, and the longer we wait, the worse the problem is going to get.

Furthermore, while all those unfunded wars and tax cuts indeed increased our deficit, a far graver debt is owed to the natural environmental systems upon which all life depends. We have treated our planetary natural resources as if they were infinite, squandering them like college freshmen with a new credit card. Now the bill is coming due in the form of accelerating global warming, and it’s time to stop the runaway spending of our environmental capital.

A carbon tax alone won’t reverse the damage we’ve caused — but it’s an essential part of the ecologically responsible economy we need if our civilization is to survive and prosper in the coming centuries.

Warren Senders

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