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01/31/2013

Comments

Marissa Gubler

This New York Times article automatically draws a causal relationship between global warming/ greenhouse gas emissions and hurricanes, droughts, and other forms of severe weather. While it seems that greenhouse gas emissions will exacerbate severe weather occurrences, I would like to see some scientific evidence of this. However, there is no question that by doing nothing, problems associated with global warming will only continue to increase at an increasing rate. The worst thing anyone can do is nothing. Everyone needs to take an active role in reducing their waste and carbon emissions. A tax might be a solution to curbing carbon emissions; however, another tax such as, income tax, should be eliminated or reduced in proportion so that productivity is not stifled by very high gas prices. Since the world runs on petroleum (gasoline, plastics, textiles, etc…), an extreme peak in oil and thus gasoline prices would no doubt discourage American companies from producing goods and might even encourage them to outsource to other countries that have little to no taxes on oil, thereby weakening America’s already fragile economy and causing people to lose their jobs. A way to help counteract this problem is to reduce other taxes, such as, income and inheritance taxes. In order to effectively combat global warming, perhaps the tax should be placed on carbon, methane, and other greenhouse gas emissions in proportion to the damaging potential of each gas. The money collected from carbon emissions taxes could be used for public programmes, improvements in education, grants for climate-based research, and stored away for an emergency disaster fund, among being used to provide aid to other sectors that are in dire need of it.

Charles Busch

To echo prior responses, the U.S. needs to develop a comprehensive policy to deal with carbon emissions in order to catch up with the rest of the developed world. As Brett pointed out, 80% of carbon emissions come from the energy industry and major business sector. A tax on these industries will serve to internalize some of the adverse effects of emissions. Tax revenue could be put toward developing cleaner energy alternatives, or toward natural disaster relief. Even though a tax could possibly result in some loss of welfare, the tax would encourage firms to reduce emissions. If a welfare loss were to occur in industries that are most responsible for emitting pollution, there could be offsetting welfare gains in other industries.
If the U.S. continues to be a laggard with respect to its efforts to curb carbon emissions, it will further set us behind the rest of the world, and we will find ourselves at a distinct competitive disadvantage. Rather than simply emulating the clean energy initiatives of other countries, we should try to be leaders which the rest of the world will want to follow. Through effective policy, tackling the issue of climate change in an economically efficient manner could set the U.S. aside from other countries. Hurricane Sandy is a sad reminder of the potentially devastating impacts of global climate change.

Callie Deddens

The line that stood out to me the most in this article stated, “A tax on energy could single handedly take on climate change.” As most everyone else has noted, this article seems to place a lot of faith in the ability of taxes to ameliorate climate change and also assumes that most natural disasters can be attributed to the rise in temperatures over time. However, I agree with others who think that the tax is a viable solution and one that should be embraced by the United States. I don’t find it that surprising that such a tax is not yet in place however. What politician would promote a new tax? However, this is an example of a time when the general public might not know what is best for them. It seems to me that the inconvenience of driving one’s car less is offset by the benefits of reducing greenhouse emissions. I also found the statistics on money raised by such a tax to be interesting and worth looking into further.

Juan Manuel Polanco

$240 billion a year just by making the price of gas 35 cents more expensive seems like a great deal to me. Especially today where those 240 extra billion dollars could come in extremely handy to deal not only with the problem of global warming but also would help to alleviate national debt. I guess no one wants to be the person who tells everyone that they now have to spend an extra 35 cents per gallon to drive their cars. Even now that people are educated in the subject and know that global warming is causing many damages that cost billions of dollars, people still don’t care because they don’t pay for it directly. I believe that introducing the tax on fuels would not only reduce the amount of fuel consumed but would trigger a revolution within the auto industry that would completely change the fuel consumption of cars and maybe sparking the discovery or growth of other possible viable fuels.

Julia Murray

Like many of the other posts, I am ashamed that the U.S. is ranked 33rd out of 34 countries of the OECD in carbon dioxide taxes. However, I would also like to point out that this article comes from the New York Times, and not a scientific journal. There are many studies out there that make a strong argument linking global climate change to superstorms (check out the journal Scientific American), but the New York Times does not include such studies, because it is geared towards the average reader, and not consumers of scientific data. While it may have been helpful for the writer to link to some further studies, his decision to link Hurricane Sandy with global climate change is definitely not unfounded.

Regarding a possible carbon tax in the U.S., it is clear that we will have to wait for the economy to improve significantly before we can get voters to consider environmental issues. Now, everyone is focused on what will happen to the economy, and concerns like global climate change have fallen into the background. Once people feel that their economic well-being is no longer in jeopardy, they will be more likely to consider a tax on emissions and other steps towards slowing global climate change.

Daniel Molon

This article points out how the United Sates is far behind every other OECD country, other than Mexico, in terms of tax rate on carbon emission. A major reason preventing the U.S. from raising its carbon emission taxes is the politicizing of the issue of protecting the environment. The problem amongst farmers is that even though climate change has been associated with drought, they are covered by crop insurance, and raising the carbon emission tax would increase their operations cost by increasing the price of fertilizer and energy. This is a tragedy of the commons mindset, because rather than just shouldering a part of the load that they are responsible for, they are dissipating the cost throughout society. Overcoming this problem has been made even more difficult by the crop insurance, which incentivizes them to not mobilize themselves politically to fix the issue. Also, no politician wants to be the one to attempt to increase gas prices, as this would likely be the downfall of any political career. So, until people accept shouldering the cost of their carbon emissions, or politicians become more motivated by the public good than their own reelection, the United States will continue to lag behind other OECD countries in carbon emission taxes.

Hampton Ike

The fact that America is lagging so far behind the other developed nations with respect to climate change is embarrassing. The US can not call itself a world leader (for good), if it continuously overlooks issues as important as to the health and well-being not only of the environment, but also of the citizens in the US and abroad. The simple solution is to begin taxing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions at a rate that will eventually bring the price of these resources up to the socially optimal level. A possible solution to the issue of "overtaxing" by implementing an emissions tax, is to reallocate where total tax revenue is derived. If the government were to increase energy use taxes across the board on consumers and producers while cutting out subsidies, it could lower the corporate tax rate as well as the income tax brackets across the board. This redistribution of taxes would make the tax system less arbitrary, while putting the greatest tax burden on those who use the most energy the most inefficiently. The idea that this would be unfair to lower class citizens is a fair point, but if the tax allocation were done correctly it would not. Evidence for this comes from the first article that was to be read for homework today where Joel Darmstadter showed the correlation between GDP per capita and energy use per capita. Ultimately, a rearrangement of the tax system may not be the perfectly correct solution, but one thing is for sure and that is that Americans need to start paying the true costs of their energy usage, starting with raising the emissions taxes.

Emily Zankman

I was surprised at my classmate’s quick dismissal of the link between climate change and natural disasters. According to the Huffington Post, “studies have increasingly found that global warming is already making certain types of extreme weather events, such as heat waves and precipitation extremes, more likely to occur and more severe”. According to a report issued by Munich Re in October, weather related loss events have almost quintupled between 1980 and 2011 in North America.

In his report, Munich Re uses the example of thunderstorms in order to illustrate this correlation. He stated that “a detailed analysis… indicates the observed changes closely match the pattern of change in meteorological conditions necessary for the formation of large thunderstorm cells. Thus it is quite probable that changing climate conditions are the drivers”.

Of course, Munich Re has those who disagree with him. It is important to realize that correlation does not imply causation. However, we know that global climate change will have disastrous impacts in other realms. Therefore, if the fear of natural disasters is a driver of new climate policies, why be so quick to dismiss the claim?

Sited link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/18/natural-disaster-trends-report_n_1975190.html

Nathan Plein

This article talks about the cost of the recent natural disasters in the U.S. One problem I have with this article that has been expressed above by many of my classmates is that the author makes a direct link between these recent natural disasters and global climate change. There have been droughts, hurricanes, and other natural disasters for thousands of years and there is no evidence to say that the events that he references in this article were correlated to recent global climate change. While I do think that there is a correlation between these natural disasters and global climate change, in that they are occurring more often, I would have liked to see the other present some more evidence before moving on with his argument.

However saying that, I do believe that it is time for America to get on board with the rest of the developed world and start addressing these environmental issues. As stated in the article the changes that we have seen have been due to warming of only .8 degrees centigrade and scientists predict that by the end of the century we could see warming of up to 4 to 5 degrees. This is a great cause for concern as we could see more severe and costly natural disasters in the future. We also don't know how this global climate change will affect the long run sustainability of the Earth. These are all important issues to consider when thinking about the cost vs benefit of regulating emissions.

Will Hatfield

Being behind the curve in regards to a carbon tax shows the priorities of America and our government. The reason for this is certainly not incompetency. America leads the world in nearly every military category, many economic areas including high skilled labor and exports of services and supply of highly educated 20 somethings. America also is a leader in the world in environmental research but is near the back of major countries to invest and act upon that research. Why can't America lead the world in carbon tax, or even awareness of such environmental issues?

I agree with previous bloggers, it is difficult to link carbon emissions to Katrina, and other catastrophes but from the research I have seen it is pretty clear that there are long-term effects to green-house gasses. I believe that this procrastination of action is a product of our microwave, "I want it now" culture. When it comes to: increasing the money supply, spending more on government programs, shipping out more troops we are quick to vote yes. This is because these are quick short-term fixes that a president can see the benefits of in his four year term. When a problem like climate change or national debt arise (problems that our children or grandchildren will have to deal with) our nation is slow to act.

Kate LeMasters

When reading about the substantial impacts of raised carbon emissions on the global climate, I couldn’t help but keep this issue in a global perspective. While the article and most of the comments rightly place this as the responsibility of the US to lower emissions, we are forgetting the other large actor: China. The US must take measures to lower our carbon emissions, and a carbon tax will be undoubtedly successful, but that doesn’t solve all of our problems, not by a long shot. In our readings for Tuesday, it was clearly stated that even if we curb carbon emissions globally by a drastic amount, we will still be living in a world between 500-600 ppm by the end of the century. That being said, these estimates represent a global level that must be addressed on a global scale. We must curb carbon emissions, and we must also ensure that other high-emitting carbon nations such as China are doing so as well. We must lead by example. We cannot expect China to lower emissions while we continue to emit carbon at unprecedented levels. Once we become the world leaders that we perceive ourselves to be, China and other high carbon emitters will be obligated to lower emissions as well.
However, I do not agree that having a tax and lowering emissions will solve all of our problems. This world will still have to adjust. People will not stop driving cars any time soon, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it for what it is. We must explore all options to ensure that our carbon levels do not exceed 500-600 ppm, no one wants to live in a world of 1,000 ppm. I don’t have the answers, but I know that a tax doesn’t answer all of the questions.
Lastly, on both a domestic and global level, I agree with Haley in that we must ensure that taxes and other measures do not further disadvantage the poor. In our country, the tax must be progressive, and globally we must expected developed and rapidly developing nations to limit carbon emissions, but we cannot expect underdeveloped nations to.

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