Saturday, July 11, 2020

Would a carbon tax be like the virus, mostly the good side effects of the virus without the bad deaths and illness?

Economic downturn, due to the virus, has reduced greenhouse gas emissions, but it's still not enough reduction for us to reach climate stabilization goals.

I got to thinking that a carbon tax could have similar effects as the virus. The virus has had lots of bad effects, but some good side effects, including reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. A carbon tax might have some of the good effects, but be more controlled. The virus has hit us, like being blindsided.

Good effects from a carbon tax that could be similar to the good side effects of the virus are things like this. More telecommuting. If fossil fuel were to be more expensive, there would less commuting and more people able to work from home. The virus has had a similar effect.

Another effect is, in my opinion, the benefits of a slower economy, or at least less rat race. Less time and energy devoted to just working and consuming.

Most people, however, don't seem to aspire to a slower economy. Unlike the virus, a carbon tax could transfer wealth into green energy development. Green energy development could lead to more prosperity in the future. Even continuation of our fast culture, if that's what people prefer.

Hydrogen fuel, solar energy, electric cars, green air travel; even space travel. Technology could still step forward.

A carbon tax would, most likely, create some short term drag on our economy. It's a tax. It would create some disruption. It wouldn't necessarily be as bad as this virus which has hit us; like it our not. A carbon tax could be suited more to our intent.

One of the big drawbacks of a carbon tax is the effect on lower income people; especially low income folks who have to commute a long ways to work and / or are dependent on energy intensive industries. Tourism, for instance.

Carbon taxes can be fairly regressive. That is part of the reason why they are difficult, politically.

There would be some bad side effects to a carbon tax. Nothing is perfect, but during the virus, we have done quite a bit to try and mitigate the effects of the downturn on lower income people. We have done things to protect the more vulnerable; generous unemployment benefits, payroll protection plans, various stimulus checks. We've been printing free money; so to speak.

Locally, here in Bellingham, we've even turned over one of our nice school buildings; Bellingham High School, to the homeless. This, due to the need to provide more spacing between people than the crowded mission house can provide. Said to reduce spread of the virus in our community. Shelter soon moving down the street to unused retail space.

The measures we would have to do to mitigate the downside effects of a carbon tax would, most likely, not have to be as drastic as for the virus.

The virus has been a bad thing and has killed lots of people, but it may offer us some lessons that are useful in reducing carbon emissions. The economic downturn has reduced pollution, but even this hasn't been enough to meet the need.

If and when we find cures and a vaccine for the virus, it isn't likely to go back to "business as usual." We still face the challenge of climate change. Solutions, like carbon taxes, might be similar to the virus in some ways, but hopefully they can be more tame and controllable.