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Crazy Idea: Carbon Polluters Should Pay You to Fix Climate Change

A carbon tax could be devised to incentive consumers to be ever-more energy efficient. 

Americans mostly now believe the climate is changing.  They believe that humans are causing it and they believe that it is a risk.  But in surveys American are not willing to pay higher energy prices to tackle the problem. 

So what if we turn that on its head?  Imagine that you go to your mailbox in the morning and there’s a check that says, “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  Here is your check for hundreds of dollars.  This represents the amount that polluters are paying you this year or this quarter for the carbon dioxide they’re pumping into the atmosphere.”

Is that crazy?  How does that work? 

What we want to do is put a price on greenhouse gases.  Because if they’re more expensive, businesses will find a way to be more efficient or switch to solar or hydro or wind power.  So that will reduce emissions.  But then what do we do with that money?  If we put a price on carbon dioxide that is going to affect you because if your power company uses coal or when you go fill up your car – those things have greenhouse gases.  So your price at the pump is going to go up.  Your utility bill is going to go up.  But if all of that money collected by that tax goes back to you, then you have the money in your pocket to pay for those raised prices.  Moreover, in this case a more fuel efficient car is a better deal. Better insulation for your house is a better deal.  In this scenario, solar hasn’t seen its price rise while coal has.  

So now you’re going to switch. Businesses are going to switch.  Industries are going to switch to more efficient and lower carbon sources of energy.  And so what this ends up looking like is carbon polluters are paying you to fix climate change. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


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