$2.4 trillion is the bill for climate change disasters from 1970-2012 according to the World Meteorological Organization. And that bill is paid by you and me. Fossil fuel companies’ costs? $0. Nada. Nothing. We buy their carbon-based products to power our appliances, heat our homes, fuel our cars, and manufacture the many things we love to consume. The problem is costs for carbon are external to the fossil fuel companies’ bottom line, hidden in the $2.4 trillion of damage ultimately done to the environment. Damage costs paid for through our taxes and charitable contributions. The fossil fuel industry pays not one cent for climate change destruction. In fact, they receive subsidies for their exploration and extraction costs. There’s a better way.
What if we could calculate a climate change cost (carbon tax) per fossil fuel unit used? A fee on the carbon dioxide emissions released by the fossil fuel burned? And what if that cost was paid for by the fossil fuel companies? A coal producer would sell X tons of coal and be taxed Y dollars. The more coal sold, the bigger the tax. The same applies to oil and gas companies. Every BTU of energy used to power/heat our homes or manufacture a product would have an associated carbon tax representing the carbon dioxide emissions released. Now imagine collecting all those different sources of taxes and keeping them in a special climate change adaptation and mitigation fund. When the next Hurricane Katrina rolls into town, funds from the carbon tax account would be used to cover the damage costs. And when the next extreme drought causes crop damage, carbon tax monies would support farmers. Etc… Some monies would be used to mitigate climate change impacts, and others would pay or subsidize renewable energy incentives.
Under a carbon tax, what you and I pay for fossil fuel-powered energy and consumer products would inevitably go up, accelerating the shift to cleaner, more economical sources of energy (solar, wind, tidal…). A carbon tax fund would do so much good for the environment and the global economy. People would be more aware of the carbon costs in all products, and carbon tax monies would support mitigation and adaptation efforts as we swiftly transition to a clean energy society. Carbon tax dollars would fund new job opportunities, critical climate change research, and relocation and support for environmental refugees.
Climate change is too often looked at through a painful lens of doom and gloom when actually there are tremendous opportunities for proactively addressing the problem. A carbon tax is one wonderful way to take a genuine problem (climate change) and do something good for society (employment, environmental restoration, support for the poor and victims of climate change disasters….).
Two 5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:
If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.
Want to support renewable energy, then push divestment of fossil fuels. Go to Fossil Free to learn what you can do.