Published on

Obama Should Implement Carbon Tax, Eminent Climatologist Says

Matthew McDermott

Though proponents of carbon cap-and-trade programs are in the ascendancy over advocates of straight carbon taxes at the moment, that hasn't stopped some eminent scientists and thinkers from coming out in favor of the latter.

Most recently, climatologist James Hansen (the first scientist to state before Congress that greenhouse gases were causing climate change, some 20 years ago, and director of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies) has come out in favor a carbon tax and has urged president-elect Obama to adopt one.

Carbon Tax & 100% Dividend

Calling it a Carbon Tax and 100% Dividend approach, Hansen said that,

The entire carbon tax should be returned to the public, with a monthly deposit to their bank accounts, an equal share to each person (if no bank account provided, an annual check - social security number must be provided). No bureaucracy is needed to figure this out. If the initial carbon tax averages $1200 per person per year, $100 is deposited in each account each month (Detail: perhaps limit to four shares per family, with child shares being half-size, i.e., no marriage penalty but do not encourage population growth).

A carbon tax will raise energy prices, but lower and middle income people, especially, will find ways to reduce carbon emissions so as to come out ahead. Product demand will spur economic activity and innovation. The rate of infrastructure replacement, thus economic activity, can be modulated by how fast the carbon tax rate increases. Effects will permeate society. Food requiring lots of carbon emissions to produce and transport will become more expensive and vice versa - it is likely, e.g., that the UK will stop importing and exporting 15,000 tons of waffles each year. There will be a growing price incentive for life style changes needed for sustainable living.

To Gain Public Support Carbon Taxes Need Re-Branding Worldwatch Institute points out that carbon taxes of one sort or another are currently in place in Scandinavia, the UK, British Columbia and in some cities in the United States. In general they have little public support-mention ‘new tax' and the average person's knee jerks reflexively-and if this sort of program is to win the public relations battle it has to be renamed to downplay the tax aspect of it and emphasize the climate change solution/environmental sustainability angle.

I'd add, it also has to be emphasized that implementing a tax on carbon isn't a tax in the sense of generating revenue for the state, but is really correcting a market imbalance caused by failing to incorporate externalized environmental damage into the price of goods and services.


This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

After nearly a decade in the world of independent film, and recently completing a Masters degree at NYU's Center for Global Affairs, concentrating on Environmental & Energy Policy, Matthew McDermott is thrilled to have the opportunity to write about alternative energy for TreeHugger.

Share This Article

More in: