Steve Sobel – Opinion piece.
Time is running out to address global climate change.
Abrupt, drastic changes in climate are increasingly viewed as realistic scenarios as a result of melting land ice. The federal government has already allocated $48 million to assist our first climate change refugees by relocating the entire community of Isle Jean Charles in Louisiana.
Pollution has a social cost that is not currently being paid. A gradually introduced, carefully planned tax on carbon pollution could reduce fossil fuel use, without increasing the overall tax burden. The tax proposed in Vermont would be assessed at the “upstream” distributor level. It would reduce fossil fuel consumption while encouraging innovative approaches to energy efficiency and conservation, and clean, renewable energy.
The revenue would be returned to Vermonters via reductions in income and sales taxes, rebates targeted to low income citizens, as well as per-employee rebates for all employers. This would be good for the bottom line for individuals, businesses and the state while also helping to save the environment and address social inequities.
This is not pie-in-the-sky dreaming. Five years after its implementation in British Columbia, for example, the province had reduced fossil fuel consumption by 18.8 percent compared to the rest of Canada, and had one of the lowest income tax rates in the country. British Columbia’s economy kept pace with the rest of Canada and there was no adverse impact on employment.
A successful carbon tax, emulated by other states and countries just might help save our planet. It might also allow us to look our children and grandchildren in the eyes when they ask what we did to prevent the death of Mother Earth.