“My View” from the July 5, 2012, edition of “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer”
It’s hot out there! We are all sweating out this midsummer heat wave, hoping for some respite.
And while a couple of days of intense heat don’t really indicate anything scientifically about global warming, it does remind us that we haven’t done anything meaningful to address what is one of our most serious long-term crises.
Unlike the budget deficit and even income inequality, global warming seems to have disappeared behind the rhetorical curtain for the past couple years — nothing being said or proposed to remedy a crisis that creeps up on us bit by bit. This despite the real scientific evidence that the average global temperature has gone up about one degree Fahrenheit over the past century and that glaciers have been melting worldwide.
But an op-ed in today’s New York Times gives us a clever proposal that has worked not just in theory, but in application.
Economist Yoram Bauman and law professor Shi-Ling Hsu start with a proven premise: If we tax things, people will do less of them — that’s why we tax cigarettes and alcohol. All economists agree with that, even the most conservative.
So the idea is this: Tax carbon emissions. That way, we create an incentive to use non-carbon-based energy sources, and then use all the revenue to fund a reduction in other taxes, from the individual income tax to the payroll tax to the corporate tax.
In the end, it is revenue neutral.
In British Columbia this idea was put into effect and greenhouse gas emissions are down 4.5 percent even as the population and economy have grown. The province has been able to cut its corporate and individual tax rates significantly as a result. They calculate that a tax at the same level as that in British Columbia would raise $145 billion a year here — enough to permit a 10 percent cut in corporate and individual income tax rates.
Not a bad bargain.
Who would oppose this? The same groups that have denied global warming exists — and the suppliers of carbon-based energy, coal and oil companies.
It would be great in a campaign that has been devoid of any talk about global warming to hear and see a useful idea like this at least get some air time.
Let’s heat up the climate debate, not just the environment.
That’s “My View.”