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National Academy of Science Urges Carbon Tax 875

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-the-flamewar-begin dept.
eldavojohn writes "Moving for the first time from a cautious message to a message of urgency, the National Academy of Science has advised the United States government to either adopt a carbon tax or cap and trade legislation. This follows a comprehensive study in three parts released today from the National Academies that, for the first time, urges required action from the government to curb climate change."
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National Academy of Science Urges Carbon Tax

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  • externality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @07:09PM (#32272286) Journal

    It makes a lot more sense to tax a negative externality than it does to tax something we want more of like income.

    • Re:externality (Score:5, Informative)

      by lgw (121541) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @07:47PM (#32272754) Journal

      A tax on carbon is a tax on everything. Food prices will rise. The price of everything ordered on Amazon will rise. The price of everyhtng transported by road or rail will rise. The price of running your heater or AC will rise, a lot. And it's a regressive tax, like all consumption taxes.

      The last time America had a serious economic crisis, it was pretty directly caused by energy prices rising. Why are we so determined as a nation to magnify and extend the current economic crisis to match the Carter years?

      • Re:externality (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tsm_sf (545316) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @07:52PM (#32272806) Journal
        Why are we so determined as a nation to magnify and extend the current economic crisis to match the Carter years?

        Some of us prize health over a new tv?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by thms (1339227)

        [..] directly caused by energy prices rising.

        But look at who got the extra money, in large parts it was exported overseas and is still being exported there. I wonder how much of the negative trade deficit comes from just that.

        Money raised from this tax would stay within the country and when used wisely can foster new technology. Much better than giving billions each year into the hands of, well... you need a tagline to sell it: terrorist sympathizers! (Not the Saudi gov't itself, but quite a few of it's citizen). Oil prices will go up inevitably, bett

      • Re:externality (Score:5, Insightful)

        by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:57PM (#32273510)

        A tax on carbon is a tax on everything. Food prices will rise. The price of everything ordered on Amazon will rise. The price of everyhtng transported by road or rail will rise. The price of running your heater or AC will rise, a lot. And it's a regressive tax, like all consumption taxes.

        If half the harms of global climate change come true, that's going to happen anyway. I'd hate to pay more for my amazon order, but I'd hate even more to catch malaria because it was warm enough now for it to thrive in my latitude.

        (note that I have no idea how likely that effect of climate change is. I'd probably invest in some bug spray and gin and tonic... maybe that's not a bad thing...)

      • Re:externality (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @09:10PM (#32273670)
        What alternative do you propose that will fix the problem? The manufacturer's are not voluntarily deciding to spend more money to fix the problem, they're certainly not going to fix the problem without passing on the costs anyway, whether or not this is mandated.

        Yes, the costs of things will rise. That's unavoidable. If we do nothing, the costs will probably be even larger.

        Reminds me of when we had rolling blackouts in California a few years back. Despite the warnings to reduce electricity usage, and brown outs the day before, I showed up at work to sit in a frigid cubicle because all the air conditioners were going full blast. It's really weird to be wearing a coat in the middle of a heat wave because someone can't figure out that we don't need it to be that cold inside. But try raising prices to encourage people to reduce usage and people start shouting and screaming.
        • Re:externality (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @03:03AM (#32275992)

          Reminds me of when we had rolling blackouts in California a few years back.

          You mean the ones caused by collusion and market manipulation of private power companies like Enron and PNG determined to drive profits regardless of the collateral damage to the rest of us?

          I remember them too.

      • Re:externality (Score:4, Informative)

        by darkmeridian (119044) <william...chuang@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @09:41PM (#32273992) Homepage

        (1) A carbon tax will lower use of fossil fuels. More independence from the Middle East.
        (2) Better bite the bullet now than have our grandkids suffer.
        (3) Costs will be spread out more evenly than a consumption tax on end products.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @07:10PM (#32272294)

    The whole Global Warming scheme was thought up by Ken Lay and discussed with both the Bush Jr and Clinton Administrations. Now Al Gore is a parter in a firm that trades CARBON CREDITS and is set to make billions off this scam. I think you all better wake up and research the NWO and GLOBAL GOVERNMENT and see what all are leaders are up to. Its time for the world to change and not in the way the Illuminatti want as they are about to have the light shined right on them and I doubt they will survive.

  • First warning. (Score:5, Informative)

    by TapeCutter (624760) * on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @07:18PM (#32272426) Journal
    This may be the first time the NAS have advised specific policies. However the first time NAS warned the US government of the problem was in 1958. This Bell Labs video [youtube.com] summarises the contents of that first warning. The NAS has not suddenly flipped from cautious, the urgency has steadilly increased over the last 50yrs to the current position of virtually screaming at congress to pull their head out of their collective arses.
  • Too Controversial (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bughunter (10093) <bughunter&earthlink,net> on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @07:23PM (#32272492) Journal

    In today's political climate, there's far far too much controversy surrounding the individual issues of taxes and energy, alone (much less combined), to permit any real legislation to succeed.

    A sane society would tax things like gasoline, diesel fuel, fuel oil, etc., highly enough to discourage its profligate consumption and apply the funds to develop practical implementations of an array of alternative renewable energy sources (fusion, solar, biofuels, etc.).

    But in the USA, if you proposed adding another $2/gallon tax on gasoline, it would be political suicide. (Hell, just suggesting it on /. risks karma suicide.) In the meantime, many of us still drive gas guzzling hummers and SUVs, and pride ourselves on it.

    We need to break the loop somewhere. As long as that behavior is affordable, it will continue to be popular; as long as that behavior is popular it will continue to be affordable.

    And eventually, when scarcity will inevitably drive up the cost of this fuel, it will be the energy corporations who will make the profits on the higher prices, not the governments... perpetuating another problem of too much corporate money influencing government policy. The smart thing to do is drive the price up now, via taxes, and use the revenue to do something more useful than line the pockets of corporate executives and stockholders.

    • by sqrt(2) (786011) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @07:39PM (#32272682) Journal

      People will be more willing to accept high taxes on energy related to transportation if they had alternatives. If you reinvest the tax money, or some of it, into a robust public transportation system it would make it easier to live without a car; something which is difficult to impossible in many places in the US. There is still a huge car culture in America, and it'll take a culture shift for that to change but it has to start somewhere. It no longer makes sense that we're reliant on each person owning and operating there own 2000 pound machine to move them to where they need to go. It is rapidly becoming economically and environmentally unsustainable and it's a change that has to happen.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Culture change time. Rethink atomic power. Rethink public transport [4brad.com].
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by sqrt(2) (786011)

          Exactly, in the US we generate a lot of our electricity by dirty coal (and there isn't any other type, "clean coal" is a fraud) and so if you switch to electric transportation you're going to use more coal which is worse than gasoline. Stupidly, the environmental lobby is the biggest opponent of nuclear power, the only real alternative we have for clean base load power generation. I normally vote Green Party, but I am a fervent supporter of nuclear power. I think they will come around on the issue though, t

          • by cdrguru (88047) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:45PM (#32273402) Homepage

            The first thing is to shut down the coal-fired power plants. This will immediately decrease the CO2 emissions.

            In 10 years or so we can have some nuclear plants built, but by then there will be far less need. Anyone that needs electricity to survive will have died off and the entire US food distribution system will have been reshaped - no refrigeration, no frozen food.

            Besides, unless we can convince Mexico to get on board, just exactly where would we build a nuclear plant? Nobody in the environmental movement is going to allow one to be built within the continental US today. The procedures for preventing this from happening are well defined and have been used for the last 40 years or so. Any attempt to inject reality (like TMI where 0 people died and Chernobyl where 46 firefighters died) into the discussion will simply have result in being branded as an uncaring, environment-destroying fool.

            I do not even believe that in the face of some pending shutdown of coal plants that a single nuclear plant would be built. It isn't going to happen, ever.

            Likely within the next 20 years we are going to see electric power become extremely unreliable and costly for most of the US. It might be even less than that. We are probably completely out of time to build anything before there are serious consequences, even if the environmental folks would get out of the way, which they aren't going to do.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by theaveng (1243528)

        Trains are a backwards 1800s technology that lacks flexibility. Heck I can't even ride a train if I wanted to, because it's a 10 mile walk to the station..... and even if the station were right next door, it takes twice as long (1 hour) as a car to reach my job. Plus what if I need to make a sudden trip in the middle of night? No trains run after 10pm around here. So I'd be stuck.

        Cars offer flexibility. And they are modular, such that they can scale up from minimal operation (a few cars running at 3am

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by theaveng (1243528)

      Gas tax should be used for one purpose only - to repair the roads. I don't want to see the US copy the EU model where drivers are taxed to death to fund all kinds of non-related projects like military or welfare or food stamps, while the nondrivers pay zero taxes but get the free handouts. Gasoline tax should be as close to a use tax as possible - like a road toll.

      That said I do think we need to double the gasoline tax. Our roads are falling apart, and need the extra money.

    • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:09PM (#32273014)

      A sane society would tax things like gasoline, diesel fuel, fuel oil, etc., highly enough to discourage its profligate consumption and apply the funds to develop practical implementations of an array of alternative renewable energy sources (fusion, solar, biofuels, etc.).

      If I had a reason to suspect that that's what we'd do with a carbon tax, I'd be all for it.

      Alas, past history suggests that we'd use the money gained to fund some congresscritter's favorite boondoggle instead.

      Oh, and do we plan to impose a carbon tax on India and China? Not sure I see much point in crippling our industry unless they do the same, since we won't be solving global warming by any action that's not worldwide....

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:53PM (#32273492)

        Yes, you can charge China and India a carbon tax. It would be collected as a tariff on imports and indexed to the amount of CO2 discharged by industry in countries that did not mandate control of CO2 emissions. China would notice this very quickly.

  • Experts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sqrt(2) (786011) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @07:26PM (#32272528) Journal

    I'm not an expert in a relevant field to understand fully this issue, and chances are neither are you. Other than wait and reserve judgment, the only logical choice I can make when there is overwhelming consensus among experts (there is on climate change) is to listen to them. I support cap and trade, not because I think it's a good idea - because I'm not qualified to know that - but because the majority of those who are qualified think it is, and science is not a political process even when the conclusions polarizes people along political lines.

  • by uassholes (1179143) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @07:40PM (#32272690)
    We definitely need a tax on politically active scientists.
  • by CokeBear (16811) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @07:50PM (#32272786) Journal

    The only way to sell it to the masses would be to promote it as the elimination of Income Taxes. Set a date (20 years?) by which point income taxes will be eliminated, and slowly ramp up the Carbon (GHG) tax while reducing income tax over the same period of time.

    What? You're opposed to eliminating Income Tax?

  • Imbalance. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by w0mprat (1317953) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @07:54PM (#32272824)
    So far any carbon trading scheme I've heard of doesn't fully take into account international trading. My country like several others is a huge net agricultural exporter. Argiculture being responsible for 50% of our emissions. Therefore its as if other countries are poluting here, yet the producer/exporter gets the bill under current proposals.

    What then of all the high value goods we import (which have a high impact per given mass compared with food), these don't polute here, but some other country has paid the price both in impact and in tax.

    What a way to collapse global trade.

    Any system needs to a per-ton value on carbon, as a baseline, and then build the system bottom-up from there. Slapping taxes on everything seems to be the only option being considered.
  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:15PM (#32273074)

    Bottom line: if you don't get the BRIC nations to sign on to any type of comprehensive deal and they actually abide by it, Cap and Trade in the US isn't going to amount to much on a global scale.

  • by pastafazou (648001) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:20PM (#32273126)
    How the CO2 concentration in our atmosphere during the Cambrian was 7000ppm and the average global temperature was 20C, and during the Jurassic the CO2 concentration was 2000ppm and the average temperature was still 20C? Shouldn't the temperature have been much, much higher during these periods? And shouldn't the temperature of the Cambrian be much higher than the Jurassic?
  • by initialE (758110) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:27PM (#32273198)

    Step 1: mess up the environment
    Step 2: mess up the financial system
    What is step 3?

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