Saturday, April 20, 2019

On full considerations

Max Fawcett is right to a point in discussing the need to acknowledge the political problems with carbon taxes as matters stand now. But there's a serious problem with the conclusion he tries to draw.

It's true that carbon taxes were originally - and understandably - pitched as the form of greenhouse gas emission reduction which fit best with laissez-faire economic theory. And there are still a few lingering aftereffects of that outlook, including the British Columbia tax which remains on the books after being implemented by the right-wing Campbell Liberals. 

But if the opportunity for a consensus has been lost, we shouldn't pretend that has anything to do with carbon taxation as a theory.

Surely we're past the point where anybody will pretend for a second that the oil lobby and its servants on the right will engage in good faith with any type of proposal which might cut back on the profits linked to dirty energy.

For the most egregious example, remember that it took approximately two minutes for the Liberals to abandon a carbon tax after the 2008 federal election. And as soon as that happened, Stephen Harper's Cons in turn started slamming a cap-and-trade system of the type included in their own election platform as being a carbon tax in order to try to capitalize on their existing line of messaging.

Likewise, Doug Ford's PC government in Ontario scrapped a cap-and-trade regime which served as a substitute for the federal carbon tax - only to go to court to challenge the federal system it volunteered to join.

Moreover, even as the political environment for all types of climate policy has worsened, so too has our global climate outlook.

Policies which might have been sufficient to rein in climate change on their own if implemented twenty years ago will be insufficient to turn matters around in the next decade from a far worse starting point. And even a strict regulatory crackdown on industries alone would leave a dangerous amount of carbon pollution untouched, as households have historically represented a substantial percentage of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

In sum, the effort to avoid climate breakdown needs to include all available tools. And we can't afford to let a group of manipulative arsonists-for-hire dictate how we're supposed to avert a future conflagration.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

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