Warming trend shows need for carbon fee-and-dividend

The B.C. Interior has seen record-breaking warm temperatures this December

The B.C. Interior has seen record-breaking warm temperatures this December. Although it now appears that Clearwater will have a white Christmas, there likely still will be a lot of green showing. What is going on?

“When you’re knee-deep in alligators, it’s sometimes hard to remember that the original objective was to drain the swamp.”

That old bumper-sticker saying seems to be the slogan for the series of international meetings held to control climate change, including the most recent in Lima, Peru.

Nobody denies that the carbon dioxide level in our atmosphere is rising continuously (and is now about half again what it was before the Industrial Revolution). And nobody denies that carbon dioxide is a powerful greenhouse gas.

We’ve known these two facts for many decades but somehow our political system seems incapable of responding prudently to the danger they present.

In the past two issues we’ve reported on efforts by the group Citizens Climate Lobby to promote a solution called carbon fee-and-dividend to our federal government in Ottawa.

This approach has the advantages of being easy to understand, transparent, dynamic, economical to administer, and effective.

Carbon fee-and-dividend would essentially be a carbon tax on fossil fuels similar to the one we have here in British Columbia but, unlike in B.C., all the money collected would be returned to everyone as a carbon dividend or basic income grant (in B.C., some of the money is distributed to low income people while the rest goes into general revenue).

A carbon fee set at $30 per tonne – the same level as the carbon tax in B.C. – would generate about $20 billion per year. Assuming there are 20 million adults (over age 18) in Canada, that would mean each person would collect a carbon dividend of $1,000 per year.

Obviously, B.C.’s carbon tax is not going to solve global warming all by itself. However, it has shown that it does work and does not hurt the economy.

Similarly, Canada cannot hope to solve global warming by itself either, even if it acts in partnership with other nations, such as the United States.

We can, however, hope to set a good example by taking meaningful action to control climate change – and many economists agree that carbon fee-and-dividend is the “gold standard” against which all other methods of control should be measured.

Ultimately, controlling global warming will require carbon fee-and-dividend at the global level. All fossil fuels in every nation will need to be taxed, and the proceeds distributed to everyone in the world on an equal basis.

 

For those who want to learn more, Citizens Climate Lobby is helping to organize a Carbon Pricing Townhall that will be live-streamed from Toronto on Jan. 27. Stephen Lewis will be moderator. For more details, go to http://citizensclimatelobby.ca.