- Reason Awakes -

Climate Change

If global warming (or more accurately climate change) is a real problem, and we believe that it is, it is an international problem. There is, therefore, very little that can or should be done about the issue by the United States acting alone, apart from basic research on the causes and possible solutions for the problem. Certainly taxing, or otherwise restricting, carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. without the quid pro quo of comparable actions on the part of other nations, such as China and India, is both unwise and potentially counter productive.


However, we would strongly support efforts to achieve a truly global response to this problem, such as a uniform global tax on carbon emissions with each nation keeping the revenues from the tax for its own purposes. In the U.S., these revenues should be used to reduce other forms of taxation and to reduce the deficit as part of the proposal outlined in  the section on "Taxation and Spending; Debt and Deficit Reduction."

Short-Term Efforts that Don't Require International Cooperation

Low Level Carbon Tax

We would be willing to establish a low carbon tax in the U.S. to demonstrate our willingness to accept this approach in principle, but we would not be in favor of raising the carbon tax to significant levels without the kind of international cooperation described above.

The terrors of nuclear war were not a sufficient argument for unilateral nuclear disarmament. Similarly, the serious dangers posed by global climate change are not a sufficient justification for a unilateral effort on the part of the U.S. to curb carbon emissions.

The only way in which a unilateral response to climate change might make sense is in the context of some kind of tariff that would tax imports from non cooperating countries in proportion to their carbon impact. It remains to be seen if such a solution would be administratively practical. It is also likely that such a tariff might violate a number of exiting trade agreements. 

Market Shift to Natural Gas and other alternatives to Oil and Coal

The taxes on oil (described in the Energy Policy section), for economic and geo-political reasons) and coal (described in the Environmental Policy section), for non-climate-change environmental reasons would shift energy demand in the U.S. toward natural gas.

This would have the side benefit of significantly lowering the carbon foot print of the U.S. without imposing any unwarranted economic damage on the U.S. economy. These taxes would also provide market-based incentives for solar power, wind power and other non-fossil fuel alternatives. The movement toward real time pricing of electric power, described in the section on Energy Policy will also provide a market-based incentive for solar power.

Geo-Engineering and other R&D

Absent broad based international cooperation to curb carbon emissions, the only hope that climate change from these emissions can be avoided may be some form of geo-engineering. The downside of these approaches is that they involve large scale experiments with the environment. The upside is that it may be possible for the U.S., acting alone, or with a few allies, to have a major impact on solving the problem. We would support government investment in R&D on these alternatives and on basic research on low carbon energy technologies.



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