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Climate Crossroads: Putting a price on carbon pollution

"Gradual increases in the carbon pricing strategy reflect the long-term thinking required to effectively address the long-term problem we are faced with." ~ William Lytle-McGhee, qathet Climate Alliance

The world isn’t talking anymore about whether or not climate change actually exists, or is even something to worry about. Just look at the news and see the floods, droughts, forest fires, extreme weather and food insecurity that abound globally.

The conversation is deeply engaged in the urgent need to do something about it, and not just adapt after the fact. While that will be a costly necessity, the need to address the cause, greenhouse gas emissions, is front and centre. Gee, what a surprise!

Carbon pricing, or as it is now known in Canada, the Carbon Rebate, and in BC as the Climate Action Tax Credit, is a feature of emissions reduction strategies in 73 jurisdictions globally. It is recognized by economists worldwide to be a very effective approach.

It is all about putting a price on carbon pollution to fight directly the cause of climate change, planet heating caused by the blanket effect of increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) in the atmosphere.

Gradual increases in the carbon pricing strategy reflect the long-term thinking required to effectively address the long-term problem we are faced with. Typical analysis involves projections of effects far into the future.

Objectives are commonly set for 2030, 2035, 2050, and even to what conditions will be like in 2100.

Focus on short term concerns such as the current affordability of things will not change the big picture, and short-term measures will not make the problem lessen or go away. In fact, it is short-term thinking that has been a primary cause of the problem.

And size matters. The price on carbon must be high enough to create an incentive to use less fossil fuel or to switch to alternatives. A recent study published in the journal Nature found that “if all countries adopt the necessary uniform global carbon tax and then return the revenues to their citizens on an equal per capita basis, it will be possible to meet a two degrees Celsius target while also increasing well-being, reducing inequality and alleviating poverty.”

Keep in mind that this is significantly higher than the 1.5 degree Celsius target set in the Paris Agreement.

We don’t have the luxury of time to treat our efforts to minimize the severe effects of climate change as if they could be switched off and on depending on current economic circumstances. Also consider the costs in the future of coping with disasters caused by climate change. We will end up paying anyway, and likely more.

For further analysis of the short- and long-term thinking involved, read the letter to the editor from Neil Abramson: Canary in the mineshaft, published by the Peak on March 13, 2024.

April is Earth Month. William Lytle-McGhee is a member of qathet Climate Alliance. 

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