It’s time for a carbon tax (Elizabeth Kolbert)

Elizabeth Kolbert / New Yorker: Comment / December 2012

(Coal plant, creative commons)Kolbert argues the United States should implement a tax on carbon as a way of generating revenue to cover the deficit and to deal with climate change. She explains the idea of a Pigovian tax is to “incorporate into the cost of what might seem a purely personal choice the expenses it foists on the rest of society”.

In the case of climate change this is illustrated by the costs of clearing up after Hurricane Sandy (estimated at around US$60 billion) compared to how much an individual pays to fill up their car with petrol. Burning this petrol releases carbon into the atmosphere which in turn traps greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and contributes to rising sea levels. Currently the driver is not responsible for the costs.

Kolbert explains there has been some support for a carbon tax from across the political spectrum. Economists and major corporations have all in varying degrees called for a price on carbon emissions.

But President Barack Obama has so far not declared support for a carbon tax. Kolbert argues Obama should take a risk and implement a carbon tax on all fossil fuels in his second term in office.

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This summary was prepared by Why Green Economy?. The views expressed have been paraphrased. See the original source for more information.

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