Monday, August 19, 2013

Climate change, not a carbon tax, is a war on the poor

Gas prices in BC, home to N America's only carbon tax (CP)
An op-ed by Elizabeth Nickson in Friday's Vancouver Sun relied on confused and un-factual "facts" to claim that a carbon tax, like we have here in British Columbia, is an attack on the poor. As I tweeted Friday, every single paragraph of the column was ridiculous.

I'll leave the correction of all Nickson's mistakes to colleagues, one of whom now has a response in the Sun (also see Andy Skuce), and focus on the backwards premise.

The fundamental objective of carbon controls is to reduce the emission of gases that contribute to climate change. A primary reason to combat climate change is to protect those most vulnerable to its effects. Pretty much every analysis, not to mention every extreme weather event, shows that the most vulnerable are and will continue to be the poor and disenfranchised. Politics certainly influence the design of the carbon policy,more than many people would like. Nevertheless, at the most base level, carbon taxes are being proposed and enacted to help the poor, not to hurt the poor.

There is evidence that the BC carbon tax is influencing the consumption of carbon-based fuels. At the same time, the system is not perfect, nor should anyone expect it to be. As we develop policies and programs to deal with climate change, there will inevitably be missteps, like the loopholes in the UN's Clean Development Mechanism, the number of carbon credits distributed in a cap-and-trade system, or the level of low income carbon tax credit (in BC). That happens with any policy, from climate to education to health care. The design is never perfect at first.

A sensible solution is to learn from and correct the missteps - close the loopholes, buy credits from the system, increase the tax credit, compensate those hurt - rather to throw the whole concept out the window.


Paul Kuster said...

No- Throw the system out the window. If you have strong convictions regarding the inaccuracies of Nickson's mistakes, don't pass it off to "colleagues". Present your arguments. Make your case. Defend your position. Perhaps you should consider this assessment and rebut where you feel necessary.

Simon Donner said...

Relax. I'm just being patient and awaiting the publication of the response so as not to scoop anyone.

In the meantime, I'll say this: The wattsupwiththat posts present some interesting-sounding arguments, but don't do any of the requisite the math. Cross-border traffic has certainly increased in BC, faster than it increased in other provinces. But even if every additional vehicle fueled up, which is unlikely, it could only account for a small fraction of the change in consumption in BC.

Andy S said...

Kathy Harrison of UBC has an excellent rebuttal of Nickson's error-filled op-ed, in the Vancouver Sun today.

Andy Skuce

Paul Kuster said...

Or we could look at an assessment of those working in the "real" world.

Andy S said...

Calling for the end of the revenue-neutral carbon tax is effectively calling for higher corporate and individual income taxes. It's perhaps no wonder that the only party that ran promising an end to the carbon tax, the Conservatives, did not even manage 5% of the popular vote in the last election.

That's a "real world" assessment, too.

But I agree, there are limits to how high the tax can go, since applying border tariffs within N America is not realistic. It makes no sense from a climate point of view to move cement making from BC to Alberta or Washington State.

Paul Kuster said...

Breathlessly ( so as to not put too much co2 into the atmosphere) waiting for that publication you're all too careful not to scoop.
How a poli sci prof and a geo prof believe they can speak competently about economics is what in the end shows, how much this is an ideology.

Simon Donner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon Donner said...

We must be the world's worst ideologues. If climate change was an ideology, we'd all agree on the solutions. Instead, folks who study climate change argue like mad about the options.

neil heesterman said...

BC carbon tax is excellent and should be extended to exports but this is only possible if an international agreement can be reached. When that happens we cash in a lot of extra money for our coal and oil and can share it with less fortunate countries. I sent 3 E mails to Mr Harper about carbon tax see