By Teresa Welsh |
Superstorm Sandy. Massive droughts. Devastating tornadoes. Horrific wildfires. The United States has certainly seen the dramatic weather-related effects of climate change in 2012, and every American has in some way been negatively impacted. Unfortunately, unless we start taking action now to curb the greenhouse gas pollution that's causing this extreme weather, things are only going to get worse.
Congress passing a progressive carbon tax is one way for the United States could make a significant contribution to the fight against climate change.
To be effective, a carbon tax should do a few things. First, it must be robust enough to lead to meaningful greenhouse gas pollution reductions; increasing over time and applying to non-carbon-dioxide greenhouse gases such as methane. This ensures continuing reductions and encourages companies to move toward cleaner energies instead of different dirty ones. Second, it should encourage businesses to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy to reduce emissions. This will stimulate the economy and put people back to work in the burgeoning green-jobs sector. Third, it must reduce the economic vulnerability of low-income households by ensuring that they are compensated for increases in energy prices. Fourth, it should have appropriate mechanisms to protect existing American businesses and prevent "pollution leakage," which occurs if highly polluting industries simply move to other countries that don't have a comparable limit on pollution. Leakage can also happen if domestic industries shut down, causing us to import goods from other countries. Finally, it should reduce the budget deficit to prevent draconian cuts in vital domestic programs by raising revenue from the tax.
America is currently on the right path. Our greenhouse gas pollution is lower than it's been in recent history, and our economy is starting to see more signs of life. Neither of these positive trends, however, is anywhere close to where we need them to be to fully address the challenges of climate change and economic growth. Even worse, our country must make additional significant changes to reduce our substantial budget deficit so future generations aren't stuck with the bill for our expenses.
These issues—climate change, economic growth, and fiscal responsibility—may not appear to be intimately linked. They all have different causes, and they impact our country in different ways. They are, however, inextricably tied together by their solution: A price on carbon can make a significant contribution to solving each of these challenges.
About Richard Caperton Director of Clean Energy Investment at the Center for American Progress.
Mark Muro Director of Policy for the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings
Chad Stone Chief Economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Charles Komanoff Director of the Carbon Tax Center
Paul C. Knappenberger Assistant Director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute.
Thomas Pyle President of the Institute for Energy Research
Christopher Prandoni Federal Affairs Manager of Americans for Tax Reform