“My View” from the Aug. 9, 2012, edition of “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer.”
So let me get this straight.
Yesterday we found out that July was the hottest month on record.
Richard Muller, a University of California physics professor, MacArthur fellow and former climate-change skeptic, whose research was funded by the Koch brothers, concluded recently that global warming was real and that prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. He then added, “I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”
And Dr. James Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and father of climate change science, wrote this past week — of peer-reviewed research he had just completed — that his analysis shows that “for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.”
The pace and scale of the impact of global warming are accelerating and devastating. The time for action is limited as we approach a tipping point beyond which the opportunity to reverse the damage of CO2 emissions will disappear.
And what are we talking about in our presidential campaign? “Obamaloney” and “Romney Hood.”
Silliness has taken over — the capacity to raise tough issues dissipated, if not gone entirely. Climate change appears to have fallen off the political agenda entirely.
Yet there is an answer for either candidate courageous enough to take the first step, an answer steeped in conservative economics — the theory that companies that pollute should be taxed so that a product’s cost to society is reflected in the price of that product. Milton Friedman and Richard Posner agree on this point.
The idea, proposed by Hansen, is simple: a fee on carbon emissions collected from fossil fuel companies, with 100 percent of the money rebated to legal residents on a per-capita basis. It is simple, would move us away from carbon-based fuels, would cost most consumers nothing and would stimulate innovation in the clean energy sector.
Right now, in contrast, we are subsidizing fossil fuels to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars a year while the greatest minds in science agree that we are destroying our planet. It is not a matter of ideology to say that this makes no sense. It is a matter of simple, conservative economics.
Is it too much to ask our candidates that in the hot, dog days of August, they trade ideas, not ad hominem attacks?
That’s “My View.”