Carbon Tax Key to Habitable Earth and Capitalism’s Future

Carbon tax British Columbia, Canada has implemented North America's first consumer-based carbon tax [ark | moreark]. Fossil fuels are to be taxed to raise US$1.75 billion over three years. The initial tax rate is $10 per ton of carbon emissions, rising to $30 by 2012, an extra U.S. nine cents per U.S. gallon of gasoline rising to 27 cents.
If serious about maintaining both a habitable Earth and an operable atmosphere, while maintaining a market based economic system, there is no choice but to urgently embrace a similar global carbon tax [search] immediately. Such a tax as proposed in EcoInternet's Lincoln Plan can and must be offset with reductions in other taxes [ark], and can be tightened as required to bring about necessary reductions in energy use.

The carbon cap and trade system is failing [search]. It is clear that carbon markets are primarily about making money and secondarily about reducing emissions, and certainly are not on track to deliver necessary massive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions any time soon. The system is being used by rich country's to put off having to introduce major energy price increases, and to offload the expense of reducing emissions upon the poor. And all forms of nutty behavior from clearing natural habitats for biofuels to actually logging primary forests are heralded as worthy of carbon credits when in fact they are the root of the problem.
Capitalism's consistent over-use of natural capital can only be addressed if all associated costs — such as overwhelming the atmosphere's capacity to absorbe waste — are reflected in prices. Capitalism will fall due to ecological collapse and resultant social upheaval unless major efforts are made to globally assess a price on carbon, and assess this price in taxes, in all haste.

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28 Responses

  1. R. Gates says:

    Every little bit helps, but nothing short of a revolution in the way humans conduct their affairs will prevent calamity.
    The incredible ecosystem disruptions ahead must be met with radical changes to human lifestyles…and these changes can be done voluntarily, or mother nature will force her inevitable and eternal will upon us.
    Carbon tax is nice, but a thimble full of water when an ocean is needed…

  2. Ray says:

    You need to get outdoors more often, its been the coldest year in decades…worldwide.

  3. David B. Benson says:

    Ray — The year 2008 CE is not even two months old. A bit early to claim 'it is the coldest year in decades', is it not?
    This winter is thought to be due to a strong La Nina aided by a prolonged solar minimum.
    But climate is a 33 year average of weather, so even if you are proven correct (most unlikely), it really means nothing about climate.
    On average, global temperatures will continue to increase for a very long time now…

  4. Ray says:

    David, The overall earth temperature has dropped over the past full year to low levels not seen in nearly a century.
    “All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA's GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously”
    This after a decade (1998 to 2008) of unremarkable change. Arctic ice packs have recovered in area and mass, antarctic continues to set maximum records in area and mass. La Nina, as I understand it, transfers heat. Should there not be a corresponding warm area? if not where did the heat go? And If the lack of solar energy has caused such a recent dramatic drop in temperature what does that say for the significance of CO2?

  5. ewoc says:

    One year does not constitute a trend.
    If you have read anything at all about climate (vs. weather, which is a short-term phenomenon) you would realize that a warming world does not mean we will never have cold weather, or that it will suddenly stop snowing worldwide and heat up across the globe. Far from it – in any upward trend line in a natural phenomenon, we would expect to see variation above and below the line – and the temperature trend over the last three decades is clearly up overall. You cannot argue with that one without ignoring the data. As for the Arctic ice pack, we're at the tail end of winter in the Northern Hemisphere – remember? I think a more accurate objection to GCMs (global climate models) would be better made in 2009 – which is when the global climate models predict temperatures will increase significantly again.
    The increased temperatures of the oceans (the ultimate heat sink) are beyond debate – they have not cooled in the last year, according to all the data I have seen. And no one with any knowledge of the subject debates that solar radiation has an important role in the overall process – just that the role of anthropogenic heating from CO2 is currently (and for the rest of our lifetimes) overwhelming that influence.
    Nice try though.

  6. Ray says:

    Last summers minimum Arctic ice pack can not be touted as a sure example of global warming ( Gore Et al, last fall, loudly and with fervent conviction) then discounted after this seasons full recovery as merely weather without some astonished amusement from others. Although I agree, its weather and all the weird unknown things that entails.
    Using Davids 33 year requirement (above), the recent 23 years (1975 to 1998) of warming falls short of a climate trend. Remember? temperature fell from the mid 1930's until 1975 before climbing back to the high of 1998, dropped slightly or remained stable until Jan 2007 then dropping dramatically 0.65 to 0.75 degrees C over the past year, all while CO2 levels continued its steady increase.
    Yes this is near the end of Arctic winter but also near the end of summer at the south pole which continues setting records for maximum amounts of ice coverage.
    If oceans have continued to warm and have an impact on global temperatures why have they not tempered this past years global cooling? Does this mean the lack of sun is responsible for all of the recent cooling? Why attach much credence to CO2 centric climate model forcasts for 2009 and beyond if solar influence, or something, is apparently such an abrupt and overriding factor.
    Thanks David, I'll have a look.

  7. Dear Friends,
    Your comments inspire me to say that I am the father of three grown children, two are now married, so I think of myself as the father of five. They mean everything to me. If I had my life to live again, in the same timeframe, I would not want to do anything differently. Life has been wonderful to people in my circumstances.
    The recommendation of a “One Child Per Family” plan of action I am making in many places these days is not one I take lightly or make easily.
    Such action could have beneficial effects of the global economy and Earth's ecology.
    If I was to sit here and say what I wish could be, I would begin by saying simply that the world we inhabit should be flat (and therefore unbounded, limitless) and human beings could be invited to continue doing exactly as we like, doing just as we are doing now forever. Freedom and dignity of the individual are cornerstones of my life and I would extoll these virtues above all else.
    Unfortunately, the world God has blessed us to inhabit is not flat. Earth is a bounded celestial orb, set among a sea of stars. Human beings evolved here. Sometimes we forget that we are a part of this Earth and members of a species that is often not adequately recognized for its distinctly human creatureliness. Until very recently, a mere two hundred and ten years ago, no one had publicly discussed, just as we are doing again now, the potential threat to humanity, life as we know it and the integrity of Earth that could one day be posed by the growth of absolute global human population numbers.
    That day when the human species poses a threat to the future of humanity and life as we know it on Earth appears to be approaching us. Here and now the human community appears to be challenged as never before by the unbridled growth of its propagation, production and consumption activities, ones we can see rampantly overspreading the surface of our planetary home.
    As much as I would like to suggest we continue with “business as usual”, that option may not be open to us for much longer. Good scientific evidence from many sources indicates with remarkable clarity that humankind desperately needs to accept both human limits
    and Earth's limitations
    If only humanity could keep doing as it likes, and as it is doing now, without threatening human wellbeing, environmental health and a good enough future for our children, then please be assured you and others would be spared my insistent contributions to this and other discussions. After seven years of going to conferences, sponsoring Earth Day Summits on Human Population, writing letters to editors, sending thousand of emails and blogging, I would honor my long-suffering spouse by fulfilling a promise I made to her in 2001: end the AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population.
    Thanks for sharing your perspectives.
    Steven Earl Salmony, Ph.D., M.P.A.
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001

  8. ewoc says:

    Could you please cite the sources for your information?
    I rely on, which is composed of climate scientists, not ideologues. I would be curious where you are getting data to show that global temps have been stable since the late 1990s.
    The data on ocean temperatures is irrefutable – as is the data on ocean acidification – are you familiar with both? At the current rate of acidification from CO2 emissions, the oceans will be exceptionally inhospitable to marine life later this century. AS IN, no more oysters, clams, mussels, or any sea creatures with shells composed of calcium carbonate. Recall your basic chemistry……..

  9. ewoc says:

    One more thought.
    I will take my cues from the IPCC, 1200 climate scientists from every nation on the planet who review all the data on global warming trends twice every decade. Their November 2007 summary report (available online) concluded that we have at most a decade to reverse the growth in carbon emissions to avoid creating a “different planet” in the decades to come (quote from James Hansen of NASA).
    To discredit or ignore their conclusions, you must believe (apparently) that either: 1) you know more than they do; or 2) they are engaged in some kind of grand, global conspiracy.
    Neither of the above is a position that an objective (i.e. non-ideological) participant in this discussion would even begin to defend. Care to try? If not, at least admit where you are getting your information from – I have my suspicions but would prefer to hear it from you directly.

  10. Ray says:

    I do not read any one source for information and I despise being led into an article to find a biased agenda or only half the story….good luck with that on global warming eh. Any site that will honestly assemble then link to sound base information without mangling it is good. Any one person in a position to offer strict professional knowledge in an area related to climate change is likewise of value. With that in mind.
    Computer models forcasting weather, let alone climate, have not been proving to be conclusive information let alone science.
    Having Micheal Mann on Realclimate's list of submitters throws up a red flag. Fraud.
    IPCC has its own structural problems and has been harshly criticized from within.
    The dailytech link posted above displays temperature history, or if you wish: which gives GISS, HadCrut, UAH, and RSS histories along with a sound critique of land based weather stations.
    As much as I like clams and oysters can you answer my question posed above before we dive into that stew.

  11. zephyr says:

    Hi Ray,
    How do you feel about direct observation?
    I mean conscious direct observation.

  12. ewoc says:

    If you don't believe that computer models have legitimacy as predictors you better not get on a plane or any other piece of complex gear. I have news for you – computer models are actually in widespread use in our technological society! And the GCM's have been doing a pretty accurate job when compared with actual observations of climate trends.
    The idea that we will never have cold weather in a warming world shows again that you are confusing weather with climate. As I've already said it's the trend that matters, and the trend is pretty clear. But then again, if you don't believe that computers can be used to model complex phenomena, and think that 1,200 climate scientists are engaged in a massive fraud why are you on this site?
    The New York TImes had an article yesterday about the sceptics claims that one season of colder weather constitutes a trend. I read it after my last post. It contained a NOAA chart that clearly shows the long term trend on temps is up. Sunday, 2/2/08. But then again the NY Times is part of the vast liberal conspiracy, right?

  13. David B. Benson says:

    Ray — I have posted the links to Tamino's site twice now. It is a pleasure to read such a careful analysis. I recomment you do the same.
    With regard to “La Nina, as I understand it, transfers heat. Should there not be a corresponding warm area? if not where did the heat go? And If the lack of solar energy has caused such a recent dramatic drop in temperature what does that say for the significance of CO2?”:
    (1) Why is there a drought in central Chile this summer? Why is there severe flooding in several countries in southeast Africa?
    (2) The variation in solar irradiance over the sunpot cycle is very moodest. In any case, think of climate as weather averaged globally and over three such cycles, 33 years.

  14. ewoc says:

    here's an excerpt from David's link to Tamino's site which I just read, explaining the slight cooling trend you point to in the middle of the last century. I recommend that you check these references – there are numerous temperature graphs with detailed explanations:
    “From this we see that the slight cooling the planet's land areas experienced from about 1940 to 1975 was pretty much restricted to the northern hemisphere; during that time, the southern hemisphere shows some wiggles but no sustained cooling. This agrees with the explanation that mid-century cooling was due to the increase of atmospheric aerosols from industrial activity. Man-made aerosols don't stay in the atmosphere very long, so their climate impact is mainly regional (not "local," but regional). The vast majority of mid-century industrial activity took place in the northern hemisphere, so most of the cooling effect of industrial aerosol production is confided to the northern hemisphere.”
    remember – climate truly IS a complex phenomena. That works both ways, of course!

  15. Anonymous says:

    I think direct observations can be of great value, however using them for a precise history is problematic. A large percent of the recording stations fail to meet National Climatic Data Center guidelines. There has been problems with RSS feeds as well. (hows that for saying nothing)
    Thanks for leaving the door wide open. An old crone peers into a Crystal ball and makes predictions. 2007 was inaccurately predicted to be a very busy year for hurricanes. (and wasn't) No models that I am aware of predicted the dramatic temperature drop in 2007. No heavy commercial aircraft will leave the ground without an alternate airstrip and enough fuel to reach the place despite a clear weather prediction. Such is the inconclusive nature of predictions and such is the limited “art” of current climate models.
    No I do not think there is a vast conspiracy on any ones part, there are just way to many people with way to divergent minds. The New York Times is fast losing credibility due to its lack of sound editing. This is a good example of taking good information and having it molested by a poor reporter. Why didn't the Times mention the other entities questioning that debatable trend over the past decade.
    (1) Floods or drought or something in between….whats your point?
    (2) As I am sure you are aware the sun has cycled down at the same time earth cooled off, there would seem to be a lesson there somewhere. Also, there is a growing knowledge and support of a 1500 year climate cycle…..I will chase down the link if you wish.
    I will go over Tamino's site soon…time is short right now. Who is the guy anyway?

  16. David B. Benson says:

    Anonymous (Ray) — Tamino is a professional statististian specializing in the analysis of time series. I know enough about that to proclaim that Tamino (now, it seems, posting as Hansen's Bulldog) is indeed very good at it.
    Gosh. You ought to learn some climatology. There is no 1500 year 'cycle' in climate, but there are processes which operate on millenial scales.
    In any case, solar variability, at any scale, is a minor player in the internal variability of climate.

  17. Ray says:

    I disagree with both your points.
    (1) solar influence, below.
    “Climate models only include the effects of the small variations in the direct solar radiation (infrared, visible and UV). The effects of cosmic rays on clouds are not included in models and the models do a rather poor job of simulating clouds in the present climate. Since cloud feedbacks are a large source of uncertainty, this is a reason for concern when viewing climate model predictions.”
    (2)the 1500 year climate cycle, again below.
    The 1500 year Dansgaard-Oeschger climate cycle has been identified since 1985ish. Where have you been?
    and continues to gain acceptance.
    Honest science does not need bulldogs or for that matter, lapdogs. I wonder why anyone would think Hanson needs either.

  18. ewoc says:

    If you think that the scientists involved in the IPCC process haven't considered alternative explanations for what we are observing in the natural environment right now (earlier springs, Arctic melt, migration of species, etc) then you aren't familiar with the IPCC process, and one must wonder how familiar you are with the process of peer review as well. You're attempting to revisit issues that have already been considered as part of that process.
    Someone already referenced the fact that you don't need to rely on computer models to know that the planet's climate is changing. Look around you. Where I live, in the Pacific Northwest, it has warmed 3 degrees on average since 1950 (University of Washington data). Spring definitely comes earlier here, on average, as it does in many places in the Northern Hemisphere. And temperature increases have already led to noticeable shrinkage of all the glaciers in the Cascade Mountains. This is beginning to affect water availability for irrigation and other uses, and is not subject to a heck of a lot of debate. It's happening.
    Seems to me that to ignore all of this data from so many disparate sources you really must try pretty hard to deny what is going on. If that serves you best, so be it. The rest of us are wondering what you are doing on this site – the post was supposed to be about a carbon tax.

  19. ewoc says:

    BTW Ray,
    I have seen modeling that predicted cooler weather globally in 2007 and 2008, followed by a return to significantly hotter global weather in 2009. It was more than a year ago, and I cannot recall the source. But you can say you saw it here first – though I cannot claim authorship.
    But (for the third time, perhaps that is the charm?) it's silly to suggest that a warming world will never have cooler periods – just that the overall trend is up. And that is in fact what we are seeing. Claiming that a cooler year somehow demolishes all the other evidence accumulated over the last several decades is like claiming that a particularly powerful hurricane was due unequivocably to global warming. Scientists generally don't make those kinds of claims – as one of your guys, Patrick Michaels of the U of Virginia, noted in the NY Times article.
    I might take the climate sceptic/denial industry more seriously if they had some folks with current academic credentials (as in, recently published in peer-reviewed journals) on their side, esp scientists who are not “on the payroll” of the carbon polluter lobby. But they don't – even Lindzen, their guru at MIT, no longer publishes much – he mostly lectures for the denial industry and enjoys watching himself on Fox and similar venues. So where's the intellectual backup for all of this stuff? It's among meteorologists, not climate scientists. In other words, weather forecasters who are taught from day #1 that long term weather forecasting is not possible. But we're talking here about long term climate trends, not weather forecasting. There IS a difference, as others have noted……..

  20. gowtham says:

    Its good try to make more attractive by adding pictures

  21. David B. Benson says:

    Ray — You seem to have some difficulty in sorting out sensible science from nonsense.
    (1) No change in cosmic ray flux in the past 50 years. Therefore cannot be a cause of current global warming.
    (2) DO events, mellennial scale, but not periodic, so not a cyclic. Anyway, the last one happened before the beginning of the Holocene. [Worse, you referenced a paper co-authored by Fred Singer, who has repeatedly shown himself to be a fool. Stick to competent sources.]
    (3) Tamino choose the handle, he writes, based on 'Darwin's Bulldog'. Was not Darwin's “Origin of Species” honest science?

  22. Why should carbon tax revenues be offset with other tax reductions?
    The external costs of CO2 emissions may well be around $10 or more per ton. So the sensible thing would seem to be tax emissions and use proceeds to invest in infrastructure worldwide and other efforts to offset the damage from global warming.
    Which is why gasoline is good for global warming, because it can “pay the bill”:

  23. R. Gates says:

    Of course, the age of capitalism perhaps must come to an end if the human species is to continue on the earth. The idea that people must survive by selling things to each other, and consuming things may seem quite silly to future generations – and if it doesn't seem silly, then there will be no future generations to be considering such things…

  24. David says:

    Why is there no outcry to stop the use of Ethanol? The destruction of the Amazon and draining of our aquifers are a direct result. The focus on CO emissions is a polictal lie. The proven fact remains that CO is not the cause but mearly the result of global warming. The real fear should be that a global ice age is about to begin! 2007 is .75 degrees cooler! That is the biggest drop in 100 years! I say we stop the disctruction of our planet and stop worring about the things that we can't control.. namely the temperature of the Earth. Fact is… we are at the end of the global warming cycle and the Earth is about to enter a long cooling phase.

  25. ewoc says:

    use you spell check, david.

  26. ewoc says:

    Oops! That's YOUR spell check, David.

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