That Carbon Tax Thing

It looks like Canadians are choosing up sides on the Battle of the Carbon Tax.

The pro-tax folks in Alberta launched a surprise attack in 2015 with a plan that proposed a carbon tax, regulation to reduce methane emissions, an end to coal-fired electricity, subsidized green power and a cap on oilsands emissions.

The rationale for the strategy was to align Alberta with Canada’s efforts to meet the proposed Paris Accord on Climate Change.  The target for the Accord is to hold global warming increases to not more than a further 1.5 to 2.0 degrees Celsius.

In Canada there is growing unhappiness about the tax.

The anti-tax arguments are:

  1. “Climate changes isn’t man made”. There are a few folks, perhaps 10%, who say the science isn’t settled; we are not the culprits.
  2. “The tax will do more harm than good”. The tax will weigh down our competitiveness and increase costs compared to jurisdictions that are not taxed.
  3. “It a tax grab”. This appeals to all of us who are tax averse. The discussion leans on broken promises to be “revenue neutral’ and dumb subsidies people don’t really need.
  4. “It won’t help the environment”. Emissions from the rest of the world are just too large, and they dwarf whatever Alberta and Canada might do.
  5. “There are better mechanisms”. Better regulations, taxing only big emitters and “feed-in tariffs” to stimulate renewables, are other methods proposed.
  6. “The tax failed to provide Alberta with “a social license” to develop the oilsands.

The pro-tax folks say:

  1. “Climate change is man-made” and it points to the science that demonstrates global warming is a result of CO2 and the greenhouse effect.
  2. “Climate change is causing serious problems”. The most serious effects are the rise of ocean levels, the growth of deserts and the extreme weather.
  3. “Further global warming is a threat to the existence of humanity”. On our present course, climate change models forecast the globe will be 4 (or maybe 8) degrees Celsius warmer by the end of the century. Climate change is not linear so nasty things could happen.  Killing heat waves, smog, massive crop failures, expanding deserts and rising oceans that wipe out coastal cities are potential outcomes.
  4. “We all have to do our part”. This thinking is part of the Kyoto (1992) Protocol and the Paris Accord and all the agreements in between. Many commitments are made but few are met.
  5. “The tax is the best solution”. The idea is to get a double benefit from creating an economic signal to reduce carbon emissions and using the money to produce energy with less emissions.
  6. “The tax gives Alberta  “social license” for pipelines to ship oil to markets.

We Severely Normal Albertans are in a tough spot.  The current tax is unpopular. In no small measure because government manipulated us with ‘the surprise tax’, threats of unilateral federal action and ‘free light bulbs’.  And the tax is much more unpalatable because government fibbed about it being revenue neutral and added something called “social license” to the regulatory mix.

But Mother Earth is increasingly upset and continued disruptive change is on its way.  Failure to turn our carbon emitting ship around will result in very bad outcomes.

So … should we forgive government and just get on with the trying to reduce our carbon footprint?