October 28, 2012 by Brian
Earlier this year I wrote a short piece in the Daily Camera summarizing the case against extending the City of Boulder’s Carbon Tax. In the 2012 election, it’s Boulder ballot issue 2A. I reproduce it here:
The Boulder City Council’s website touts a “Climate Action Plan” as one of its primarygoals. “The current goal is equivalent to the Kyoto Protocol target – to reduce emissions to a level seven percent below 1990 levels by 2012,” it says. With the city’s carbon tax set to end early next year, it’s worth asking: Is reducing carbon dioxide emissions the best way to respond to global warming?
Reviewing analysis by retired NCAR Senior Scientist Tom Wigley, Boulder’s University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) states that even if the “industrialized and nearly industrialized countries called upon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the protocol … continued to abide by Kyoto’s limits” through 2100, global average temperatures would be at most 0.38 degrees Fahrenheit less than midpoint warming projections. Put in perspective, global temperatures decreased by this amount between 1900 and 1910, according to NASA.
Given this tiny effect, I’m not surprised that expert climate economists commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Center ranked emission reductions last among cost-effective responses to climate change. More efficient methods, listed at FixTheClimate.com, include adaptation, climate engineering, and carbon storage technologies.
With or without global warming, people — especially those in developing nations –face threats from extreme temperature, coastal flooding, hurricanes, malaria, poverty, starvation, and water stress. While global warming may increase these risks, scholars including Indur Goklany and Bjorn Lomborg convincingly argue that directly reducing these threats and promoting prosperity save more lives at lower cost than attempts involving emissions reductions.
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Other aspects to consider:
[P]roponents say we should tax ‘bads’ like pollution instead of ‘goods’ like capital or labor. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a ‘bad,’ they contend, because its impact on global climate imposes a ‘social cost.’ But the social cost of carbon is very far from being a known quantity. Try, for example, to discern carbon’s social cost in the following information.
- Global tropical cyclone frequency has declined slightly since 1970, while tropical accumulated cyclone energy (a measure of hurricane strength) has declined significantly since 2006.
- As U.S. urban air temperatures increased over the past three decades, heat-related mortality and air pollution levels declined.
- Since the 1920s, global deaths and death rates related to extreme weather declined by 93% and 98%, respectively.
Whatever your views on climate science, the claim that carbon taxes tax ‘bads’ rather than ‘goods’ is misleading. Enterprises don’t emit CO2 for the fun of it. They do so in the process of creating value and employing people. Carbon taxes are indirect taxes on labor and capital.
Proper role of taxes. Lewis continues:
In a genuinely free society, taxes are used solely to raise revenue to pay for public services. That is, taxes are not used to regulate behavior, reward friends and punish enemies, or rig the marketplace. Carbon taxes deliberately aim to do those very things. Inevitably, the extent of the tax will be determined not only by fiscal considerations but also by social-engineering/wealth-transfer agendas and by sky’s-the-limit speculation about social cost.
Energy efficiency. The Daily Camera reports that the tax raises around $1.8 million a year for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, including incentives and rebates for homeowners and residential and commercial landlords.” However, McClatchy news service reports:
If homeowners decide to purchase energy-efficient windows, they shouldn’t to expect recoup the investment anytime soon. Given that it costs $7,000 to $20,000 to outfit an average home, it could take 20 years or more to break even, according to Consumer Reports magazine.
where increased energy efficiency is offset by increases in energy use because increased fuel efficiency lowers the relative cost of consumption. The magnitude of energy rebound effects has important implications for strategies aimed at restraining climate change through energy conservation requirements.