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Americans want a tax on carbon pollution, but how to get one?

Posted on 23 October 2017 by dana1981

According to a new study published by Yale scientists in Environmental Research Letters, Americans are willing to pay a carbon tax that would increase their household energy bills by $15 per month, or about 15%, on average. This result is consistent with a survey from last year that also found Americans are willing to pay an average of $15 to $20 per month to combat climate change. Another recent Yale survey found that overall, 78% of registered American voters support taxing and/or regulating carbon pollution, including 67% of Republicans and 60% of conservative Republicans.

regs & tax support

This raises the question – with such broad support across the political spectrum, why doesn’t America have a carbon tax in place by now? Study co-author Anthony Leiserowitz noted the similarity to public support for many gun control policies:

Policy elites sometimes have ideological stances quite different than their constituents, even of their own party (e.g., background checks on gun purchases in the US which is overwhelmingly favored by Democrats and Republicans).

Public support often doesn’t translate into policy. On the issue of gun control, Republican lawmakers are afraid that if they vote for even the most benign policies like requiring background checks for all gun purchases, the NRA will mobilize its supporters against them. In primary races with relatively low turnout, with partisans more likely to vote, Republican lawmakers fear that mobilizing even a relatively small minority of opposition voters could cost them their jobs. On the issue of climate change and carbon taxes, they have the same fear of the Koch network.

In short, the wealthy and powerful have more influence over American policy than average voters.

A key question – what to do with carbon tax revenue

The new Yale study also asked survey participants how they would like to use the revenue generated by a carbon tax. Supporting the development of solar and wind energy and funding infrastructure improvements were the two most popular choices (around 80% support), followed by assisting displaced coal workers (73% support) and paying down the national debt (67% support). Interestingly, the option of returning the revenue back to taxpayers was supported by fewer than half of Americans – both Republicans and Democrats.


Basically, Americans support a carbon tax because they want action to address climate change, and they want to spend the revenue on clean energy for the same reason. Or they at least want to spend the money on something they consider important; for conservative Republicans, paying down the national debt was the top choice.

However, we’ve seen that public opinion doesn’t dictate policy, and there are some important reasons why returning all of the carbon tax revenue to households (a.k.a. ‘revenue neutrality’) has widespread support, including among many prominent Republicans.

The case for a revenue neutral carbon tax

Perhaps most importantly, Republican Party thought leaders and elder statesmen consider revenue neutrality critical to their support for a carbon tax. For one thing, many Republican policymakers have signed ‘the no tax pledge.’ During Obama’s presidency, Republicans weren’t even willing to accept large budget cuts in exchange for much smaller tax increases. Cutting taxes may become the only significant legislative accomplishment of the current two-year congressional session. If there’s one issue Republican policymakers can agree on, it’s cutting (or at least not increasing) taxes. But as Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz put it, “It’s not a tax if the government doesn’t keep the money.”

Secondly, because poorer households spend a larger proportion of their income on energy bills, a carbon tax would be a regressive policy. However, because wealthier households use more energy and thus have larger net energy bills, returning all the revenue equally to households would be a progressive policy. Studies have found that most households would actually come out ahead, with rebate checks exceeding their increased energy costs, and particularly lower income households. Studies have also shown a revenue-neutral carbon tax policy would grow the economy, largely for this very reason – the rebate checks would give people more disposable income to spend.

Third, returning the revenue to households would allow for a higher carbon pollution tax. If Americans are willing to pay an extra $15 per month to tackle climate change, that would translate to a very modest carbon tax. But if some or all of the revenue is returned to households, net energy costs will be offset by rebate checks, allowing for a higher carbon tax at the same cost to households. And the higher the tax, the more effective it will be at reducing American carbon pollution.

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Comments 1 to 29:

  1. Yes the huge silent majority are completely ignored, again. And yes politicians are worried about losing even a few votes. You also have the problem of campaign donations, and you cant tell me this doesn't influence policy. 

    And it all makes a mockery of democracy and the will of the people. Do the leaders have the moral right to ignore the will of a strong majority, especially when they are clearly taking a responsible position?

    Having said that I think you are right. Lets be optimistic. Eventually the huge silent majority do tend to prevail, and politicians finally start thinking and taking notice, just looking at history and a good recent example is drug decriminilisation.

    Carbon taxes have the virtue of practicality and the dividend does overcome ideological concerns about excessive taxation. There is a lot to be said for cap and trade in theory. It is a very elegant mechanism, but not so acceptable to Republicans, and IMO rather opaque and susceptible to manipulation by corporates and government alike. (Just look at evidence in Europe). Carbon tax and dividend appears more politically acceptable, transparent and practical. Of course you can also have both in parallel apllied to different problems.

    But a dividend fully returned to the public would not necessarily go into buying electric cars and so on. IMO Ideally about half the divided should go to the consumer, and half to promoting renewable energy and electric car charging networks. But please just do something, anything.

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  2. This survey is a prime example of a typical biased survey.  Look at the first Leading question  "governments can reduce pollution that causes xxxx...."

    The second example "congress may consider at tax on ...xxxx...  to 'help"..."

    the attached link points out some of the more common tricks used in advocacy surveys - Dont place too much credibilty on such a survey.

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  3. Tom13@2, I'm struggling to make sense of your comments. You have quoted statements, not questions.

    The statements are also reasonable, correct, and evidence based, and regardless of that its up to the public to decide whether they agree.

    The link on leading 'questions' is very good, but just doesn't appear relvant to anything you have said.

    Please note regardless of your criticism of this particular study, several others listed in the article had a similar result, and Pew reserach has also found a majority want more done on renewable energy, although that reseach was more general and is older now. The case of what the majority want is however pretty clear

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  4. Nigelj


    Both polls are using leading questions and/or leading statements  - a very common trick to influence the survey results.  

    FYI - I cited one of the many articles which discuss common tricks used in surveys to generate preferred responses, Its a common trick and an obvious trick.  The point is that when surveys use such tricks/tactics, the survey results rarely reflect the actual sentiment of the public.  

    You mentioned other surveys that have similar results.  Can you give us a citation or link to a survey that had similar results without the leading questions- 

    Your last statement "The case of what the majority want is however pretty clear:" -Based on what - misleading surveys which dont reflect actual public opinion such as the two yale surveys cited in this article?

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  5. Tom @13,

    "Both polls are using leading questions and/or leading statements -"

    No they arent. Please provide specific examples of your alleged leading questions with internet links back to the relevant page. Frankly I doubt it. I havent seen any.Im tired of people who post wild claims. 

    "You mentioned other surveys that have similar results."

    The article above listed other surveys "This result is consistent with a survey from last year that also found Americans are willing to pay an average of $15 to $20 per month to combat climate change. Another recent Yale survey found that overall" The survey websites were linked in the words.

    With the greatest of respect dont you actually read anything?! I gave you yet another survey, the pew research survey on climate change. Its old and doesnt ask the same question but shows majority support for renewable energy.

    "Your last statement "The case of what the majority want is however pretty clear:" -Based on what - misleading surveys which dont reflect actual public opinion such as the two yale surveys cited in this article?"

    We have a total of four surveys. You havent provided any evidence at all that they are flawed, just wild accusations and conflated claims. The point I was also making that maybe is too subtle for you is its unlikely all these survyes would have a genuine flaw. And none do anyway.

    You also haven't supplied any evidence of any surveys finding anything different, and I mean proper recent surveys, not trash from some think tank. So you are asking is to believe your wild accusations, while not providing anything better. I dont buy it.

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  6. Tom13 @4, and another thing. You now appear to say the following are leading statements. It's the only way I can interpret it:

    "Look at the first Leading question "governments can reduce pollution that causes xxxx...."

    "The second example "congress may consider at tax on ...xxxx... to 'help"..."

    This is just really hard to comprehend. What on earth is a leading statement? Theres no such thing really.

    They also dont lead anyone, because they are simply statements of reasonable fact as I already explained. Governments can most certainly reduce pollution, just look at the historical evidence In America going right back to Nixon in the 1960s with vehicle pollution. And its clear theres reasonable support by Congress for at least considering a carbon tax and dividend. The sentence said 'may' not that they absolutely would. So its reasonable not manipulative or exaggerated or "leading".

    But above all theres no evidence of misleading questions or so called misleading statements.

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  7. Heres the Pew Reseach. It say two thirds of Americans favour renewable energy as below. Its not the same as a carbon tax, (as I stated above) but it does show good support for renewable energy,and forms another part of the overall picture on public opinion on doing something about climate change.

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  8. Nigelj 

    I gave you a link at #2 above, I have also included a few additional links below in order to assist you in getting up to speed on the subject of misleading surveys.  Once you are up to speed, then you should be able to recognize the deficiencies in the quality of the results of the surveys you are currently defending.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Your posts suggest that you consider yourself to be well-versed about how survey questions should be formulated. If so, you should be able to explain why a particular survey question is "biased" without resorting to hand-waving and lecturing other commenters.

  9. What does $15/mon equates to $X/ton-CO2?: Rough math: Avg Emission: 18ton/US-person/yr; so $15/(18*4/12)=$2.5/ton. Close enough? Compare to: CCL's $100/ton (after 10yr ramp) or CLC's starting $40/ton plus ~2%>%GDP ramp. CCLs: at $100/ton is ~$1/gal petro and $0.10/kwh for coal power. So, $2.5/ton is 2.5c/gal petro and $0.0025/kwh. ... $2.5/ton rate is negligible in correcting the 'market failure' of the existing FF price signal.

    A more apropos survey question would be aimed at increasing household total costs (direct & indirect) to equal either 1) 'the generally accepted present value of future costs' or 2) 'current CCL or CLC proposed rates'. For example, $240/mon (@ $40/ton) or $600/mon (@ the full ramped $100/ton). The survey results would then be more forthcoming on public sentiment for the degree of incremental price signal required to truly drive market-based transitions with a high degree of economic force & efficacy.

    The implications on the weak carbon tax policies of EU and Australia should also be considered in the big picture here, where some of the revenue was returned to the carbon polluters as hardship subsidies (EU) or used for pet projects by the government (both); the former making the tax ineffective, the latter making it regressive. This history shows how hard it is for the public to economically & politically "bite the bullet" in transiting away from status quo. We are enslaved by its 'present-day' short-term security; fooled by the lie of its incorrectly low 'non-future cost' pricing; and too weak & ignorant to want to pay the correct price now & let 'right' economics force us to change.

    Of all macro policies (tax, cap-trd, cmnd-cntrl, subs), it is relatively obvious that carbon taxing is the most effective (least burdensome, most direct); read book linked below. But, contrary to the weak tax policies of EU & Au, we have to let the tax force non-sustainable processes to crater & die, and this means making the tax as politically durable as possible, so it doesn't 1) get repealed (like in Au), 2) doesn't subsidize the polluters and 3) has serious economic force to it. Policitical durability makes it stick for businesses: "We are in this for keeps; you better change if you want to remain profitable". And, the most politically durable plan is to return all of the revenue to the households, no pet political favors & projects! Let the market drive the best technologies and where the investments go. Or, at the most, do these side transitional efforts with side money; let them support themselves financially; like we would do today with today's tax revenue.

    Read the book linked here and see if you can find anything wrong with it. It's about the truest, clearest thinking on how best to fix our present-day market failure of carbon energy pricing.

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  10. I looked at the surveys Nigelj mentioned and I do not find the leading questions that Tom13 is objecting to. Clicking on the survey link in the PEW aricle took me to a discussion of the survey and the questions do not rely on assumption that a fact is true, or the various other pitfalls described in Tom13's own link. Once again, just saying that something is bad does not make it so.

    Examples include:

    First on the list: "percent of adults who say _____ should be the more important priority for adressing America's energy supply." Answers can be "Alternative sources" or "Expand production of oil, coal and natural gas" or "Both" or "Don't know." This is completely different from the examples in Tom13's link of what constitutes a leading question.

    Other surveys and questions were referenced and I compared with the descriptions in Tom13's link but did not really find them either to include the characteristics of bad design mentioned in said link. As far as I can tell, the PEW surveys' results linked by NigelJconstitute valid public opinion information.

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  11. Tom13 @8:  How would you phrase the survey questions to be NOT biased in your opinion?  Also, please stop the ad-hominem argument.  Everyone here is "up to speed" on the issue at hand.

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  12. Tom13 @8

    I have already read your link on leading questions. Thanks for more links, but  I have read similar articles in the past anyway.

    You have made a series of completely hollow accusations, with not one single piece of evidence, and nothing more than empty circular rhetoric and ad hominems.

    You have not provided one single alleged leading question you think is somehow  comparable to the principles and examples in your link. Not one.

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  13. Tom13@13

    "I also highlighted two of the specific leading questions in the Yale surveys."

    They are not questions. For the second time they are statements!

    There is a huge difference between leading questions that manouver people to a desired result,  and statements made along the way that are just background material. Of course such statements need to be carefully accurate, but your examples were accurate.

    The statements also dont lead anyone, because they are simply factual statements that dont imply some result or manipulate in some way or lead someone to a false or constrained conclusion. 

    I dont think you understand the philosophy in your own links.  In my experience surveys by large organisations of repute as above rarely lead people, you get that more in surveys by smaller ideologically driven smaller lobby groups trying it on shamelessly! 

    I'm open minded. If someone can show a genuine leading question in the surveys that's interesting,  but Tom hasnt. He is time wasting instead. He made a claim and can't back it up, so just goes on repeating the claim. Is that not being dogmatic?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Tom13's most recent comment was dleted in its entirety because it was a Moderation Complaint. He is on the cusp of recusing himself from posting on this website. 

  14. Sauerj @9, yes the carbon prices in the survey example does not reflect the full cost of emissions on society, if thats what you are saying. However I think  any intial carbon tax would be set in the low to moderate level, and ideally increased over time. It's just how the world works in regard to so many things. So the survey was sprobably correct to be based on the lower price. I hope I'm correctly interpreting what you are getting at.

    Regarding your other comments on the most desirable option, I agree a carbon tax and dividend does have a lot of positive attributes provided its correctly implemented. I'm inclined to agree let the market decide on best renewable options. To me markets do this sort of thing well and governments role is to set the boundaries and rules of the game.

    However I dont have a problem with subsidies, provided they dont favour one particular  renewable energy source, and provided they are time limited. Even in a good quality market it can be very hard for things to get off the ground, especially new technology coming up against predatory entrenched interests. The UK wind industry has taken off and had modest subsidies. I'm not sure a tax alone would have been enough; or as quick to get results, and we do need reasonably rapid progress now.

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  15. I dont have a problem with people expressing sceptical points of view like Toms. I think people have a right to comment even climate sceptics (I say this reluctantly and through clenched teeth). Freedom of speech is so important.

    But Tom has not backed up his key asstertion on leading questions, and dogmatic empty repetion does clutter things up, and obscure interesting comments like Sauerj. 

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  16. What's amazing to me about this survey is what a huge impact special interest spending has on public opinion.  When I was a kid, conservation of our environment was non-partisan, maybe even "conservative".  Now we are seeing a 69 to 25 spread between liberal and conservative over an issue which is not fundamentally aligned with either party.  How can these people who argue with such great passion against climate science be so thoroughly controlled by forces they aren't even aware of?  They can't all be industry shills.  My best guess is partisan tribalism, spreading like a virus.  P.S. I'm not talking about Tom13.  I don't know his politics.

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  17. macquigg @16, my thoughts exactly. Somehow in the past people on right and left had more of a consensus on environmental issues, as you say. in fact the big silent majority constantly show they are generally moderate in beliefs, and what we might be seeing right now is a very noisy partisan minority of activists on the right becoming ever more prominent and influential and noisy (and possibly on the harder left as well at times in their particular way).

    I think its driven by conservatives mainly with a fear that social values are liberalising generally and economics is moving slowly from being belief orientated, to more evidence based. I suggest those more strongly and partisan inclined towards the Republicans are seeing their very belief orientated way of thinking, and socially conservative values becoming ever more challenged by a more science based approach and are becoming defensive and very loud and opposed to some of the key science theories. This spills over now into environmental issues. They compromised in the past but are now becming nervous. I have a more liberal outlook, but even I get nervous at the pace of change sometimes.

    I dont know what the answer is but it must include emphasis at all times on the value of science, evidence and logic and try to constrain beliefs and values to simple defensibe things most people would accept, and there are plenty of those. I hasten to add those that lean very liberal sometimes have their own echo chamber problems, and dogma its not all one sided.

    I do agree partisan politics appears to be a big factor in denialism. But we shouldnt over simplify too much, and I think several things contribute, including basic understanding of science way of thinking, vested interests, jobs, politics and world view. Most writers I have come across think the same, and it reflects my own experience talking to people.

    I can also at least  imagine that anyone whos job is immediately threatend by policy would understandably be nervous, and perhaps fight back against the science, regardless of their political leanings. Of course some poeople are more accepting and sanguine and just move on to new horizons. But some democrats are also climate sceptics, its not a republicans, for example so this shows ideology is unlikely to be the only factor.

    Having said this , its remarkable just how many of the loud, persistent, noisy climate sceptics turn out to be driven by conservative / right leaning / libertarian ideology. I find this in my personal experience, and this is also backed up by some evidence as this website has shown polls where conservatives do feature more in climate scepticism. I think its a gut visceral dislike of government rules and restrictions over business, so quite deep seated in character and beliefs. Of course their point of view sometimes has merit, but it seems to have become extraodinarily irrational and dogmatic these days, possibly for the reasons I explained above. You only have to read their discourse in the media.

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  18. Actually I would reckon that the most important reason to make a carbon tax revenue neutral would be to ensure that the revenue does not become something the government or the society depends on to do stuff.    Want better schools then set the income tax rates accordingly and pay for schools.   Want better mass transit?  The same.  Don't use the CO2 tax to do anything but discourage the emissions of CO2 because if government gets dependent on it there is created a perverse incentive for some parts of government to maintain the emissions to keep the income flow.  

    Just saying.  :-) 

    Also : 

    " "governments can reduce pollution that causes xxxx....""  apparently contains the assumption that governments can reduce pollution.  This is only regarded as an assumption by a certain class of extremist who is ignorant of the experiences in Sweden and Canada and France where government action did unquestioningly reduce pollution, though the French result is clearly secondary.  


    ""congress may consider at tax on ...xxxx... to 'help"...""  appears to offend the same nerve endings that are so ultra-sensitized to the use of government to do the things that the people separately cannot accomplish.  Which is a description of the purpose of government generally.   

    Reading the above, it is fairly clear that the offending passages aren't offensive, and the perception that they are is a matter of someone trying to re-frame the debate and shift the overton window even further to the right of our home than it is, and it is already in the vacant lot next door.  

    In a few years it won't matter.  I expect the financial crash of 2018 to put paid to the neoliberals. 

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  19. I have to disagree with you Bjchip. The "do stuff with" a carbon tax needs to include reducing emissions where verifialble, and increasing sinks where verifiable. All other uses should be invalid, including a rebate to the general public. Otherwise forget it. No tax.

    The last thing we need is another entitlement. I agree there. But I have no problems at all using a tax and spend if indeed the "spend" is spent on actual verifiable carbon in a long term sink. (maybe even 10% used for research and development and/or start up business loans for renewable energy projects and/or sequestration projects)

    That certainly could include a farmers field if he can verify it using a standardized verification protocol.

    There should be no problem paying for a public service. We do that already. It causes zip zero nada economic disruption at all. We can even do it without adding a tax just by redirecting current subsidies identified as belonging to outdated systems contributing to AGW. In that case it is a Win/Win

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  20. Why not divide the tax dividend like this: 50% given back to the public, 25% carbon sinks, 25% help with renewable energy?

    The only way to sell the idea is probably to give at least some back to the public. The public may also be amenable to a dedictated fund for soil sinks and renewable energy.

    Either way all this keeps it out of the black hole of general government spending, and stops it trickling into stealth bombers, or politicians pay rises or whatever it is you dont like. 

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  21. sauerj @ 9

    Could I just clarify the math in your post?  I am assuming you are correct that the average US emissions per person is 18t/yr.   As of June 2016, the US population was around 323MM.  The Kotchen et al September 2017 concludes that on average American households would be prepared to pay $180 ($177) per household to combat global warming.  The same study states that there are approximately 126 MM households in the US.  So that works out to 2.56 persons in each household.  So that works out to a contribution per person (not household) of $70.  If you divide this amount by the 18t/person/yr that works out to a carbon tax of $4/t/person that Americans are willing to pay for based upon their emissions.  It is certainly not more than double that figure even if you base it on adults per household.

    My only other comment I will make on this thread is that all of these studies show a very clear divide between Democrats and Republicans which would suggest a real "whipsawing" going forward in American policy dependent on which party is in power. 

    The May 2017 Yale Study shows that only 42% of Moderate/Liberal Republicans are concerned about global warming.  When you mix in the Conservatives to get Total Republicans, that percentage is just 29%.

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  22. Norris @21

    The studies do indeed show republicans and conservatives do figure disproportionately in climate science scepticism. In fact it goes further, with conservative white males being particularly prominent as in this article from Scientific American.

    The article explores reasons of course and there are several suggested reasons. One issue is people often take a view of climate scepticism because they 'assume' their peer group all think that way, when in reality their peer group may not be thinking that way at all or not as much as is assumed. The fact a good percentage support renewable energy suggests wider belief that we are altering the climate than might be apparent in science question polls, because of this effect.

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  23. Nigelj @22 , your Scientific American article is from 6 years ago.   While the rest of the world (especially China and India) has moved forward over that 6 years, there doesn't seem to have been much change in the USA, judging by the Yale studies [per NorrisM @21].

    If we can believe the 10-year series of Yale surveys, then 66% of Americans do not discuss [this major topic] with family & friends.   ( I wonder if football games & Kardashian games rate as poorly! )  Apparently, 50% say they never give [climate] a thought.

    All of which strongly suggests the proposal that: American households would countenance a $177 per annum fee to counter AGW . . . is a rather uninformed assessment resting on a flimsy base.   I would like to think Americans could do a lot better than 18 cents per day per person — once they achieve a properly-informed opinion, that is !

    Some things change slowly — and sometimes "a week is a long time in  politics".  And a tipping point occurs.

    There are often unexpressed depths in human thinking.  But fires floods and hurricanes can gradually chip away at the dam wall — until there's a sudden collapse, and reality comes flooding through.

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  24. The way to get the changes required is to put on the tax, not for the government to spend the money .  I agree that it'd be reasonable to additionally spend that money on changing the emissions profiles faster, but... and this is deadly important...  how do you get general acceptance of the tax.  The people asserting that big government is a hazard to the society are NOT wrong about that.  The capture of government by industry and the banksters is already  almost complete.  That is a real thing, and if you want to get a tax in place, which is the most important SINGLE thing we can do to get this change to happen, we have to pay attention to the results.  Moreover, it is absolutely true that the government will have people in it who will be motivated to keep the emitting happening to keep the money flowing.   It isn't an "entitlement, it is a refund arrangement and if society manages to survive another 20 or so years the automation of every nearly every decent job out there is going to be near complete and the government is going to be "redistributing" money anyway.  

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  25. Bchip @24, you make some good points.There appears to be general acceptance of the tax with the population at large, it's politicians who are reluctant. I suppose its a case of getting  enough critical mass of public opinion so that politicians can no longer avoid the issue. Websites like this help, talk to your local politicians, vote for environemtally aware parties.

    As someone above noted these things tend to ultimatly reach tipping points where large numbers reach a silent and similtaneous consensus that things must change, and at that point change is sometimes rapid, just look at history. But you can push people towards the tipping point as much as possible.

    One issue is big governments means different things to different people! Some resent government getting in our bedrooms, some resent taxes and rules, or capture by the banksters (which is a real problem) etc,etc. I think theres some optimal size, not too big not too small.

    As you say its also a function of real circumstances, because if automation does cause mass unemployment, theres no escaping something like a universal basic income, unless we want serious deprivation and complete chaos. In the end "reality bites hard" and makes ideological posturing seem inadequate.

    My country has made its share of mistakes. It probaly tends towards slightly big government simply because we are so small you need that for practical reasons. But we have a "fiscal responsibility act" that requires government to keep debt low. This constrains government size, but is designed to be flexible to handle recessions. It has worked surprisingly well. 

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  26. A carbon tax could help reduce the rate of GHG pollution, but ultimately more responsible leadership action is required to terminate the creation of increased harm by pursuers of personal benefit from the ultimately unsustainable burning of non-renewable fossil fuels.

    Global humanity is suffering from an epidemic due to the infectious pursuit of private interest benefits that is made more virulent by misleading information delivery. The symptoms of the disease include democracies failing to ensure that their leadership deliver Good Results. The Winners in games of popularity are often the characters without Character, people focused on unjustifiably getting away with obtaining self-interest benefits for only a portion of humanity to the detriment of current day Others and to the detriment of all of future humanity.

    My Professional Engineering thoughts enlightened by my MBA training plus decades of observation, and too many other sources of information to practically list (including this OP and the comments made 'in reaction' to it), are that "understandably unacceptable options must not be allowed to compete for popularity or profitability".

    Popularity and profitability contests can be seen to result in less acceptable competitors getting a competitive advantage and Winning until/unless effective external limits are imposed on their behaviour. And more freedom for people to believe anything and do whatever they want makes it worse. That free-for-all competition can result in competition to be the least acceptable in even the 'supposedly most advanced nations'. And it can develop the related delusions that the less fortunate 'deserve their fate'.

    As a Professional Engineer I experienced many cases where I had to say No to objectively unacceptable options (options that were contrary to the public interest), that were desired by clients as well as executives in the companies I worked in. In some cases people even tried to claim that how much cheaper or quicker an unacceptable option was needed to be considered, implying that the protection of the public interest from the potential actions of a pursuers of personal benefit should be compromised/balanced with a private interest for more personal benefit.

    Correcting/restraining the likely harmful results of competition is a responsibility of Regional Governments (leaders governing the behaviour of a regional sub-set of global humanity). That responsibility of governing groups makes the Objectives of their actions the important measure. How big the government is in terms of tax funded actions does not matter. How effectively the government accomplishes Good Results is the key measure.

    Good results are sustainable improvements of the living circumstances of the least fortunate and future generations. Making an already more fortunate person even more fortunate because of the Dogma that 'lower taxes are better' (or taxes are bad) is not a solution. And collecting a tax that does not achieve the required Good Result/Objective is also not a solution.

    Freedom should be limited to those who responsibly self-limit their actions to things that are not harmful to future generations or the less fortunate (particularly the least fortunate). Without that understood limit on Freedom democracy or the freedom of people cannot be expected to develop Good Results.

    For the climate science/change issue the Objective is the rapid termination of the creation of new excess GHG combined with efforts that effectively reduce the already over-developed, and still increasing, level of GHGs.

    Irresponsible leadership resulting in a lack of proper education of global humanity has pushed humanity to the current daunting requirement for massive rapid corrections of what has developed, including the increased challenge of education regarding the massive required correction of incorrectly developed perceptions of prosperity and opportunity.

    Winners trying to limit awareness and proper understanding of climate science through misleading marketing are among the greatest threats to the future of humanity that have ever developed, and they need to be treated as the threats that they actually are.

    Education of the population about the importance of self-limiting their behaviour, understanding ethical limits to achieve Good Objectives, is the most sustainable solution. The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals are a globally applicable presentation of the measures of ethical/good objectives. These goals are open to improvement if Good Reason is provided to substantially alter part of the developed awareness and understanding that is already the basis for the Sustainable Development Goals.

    Ultimately, regions/groups of people cannot be allowed the freedom to continue to believe and do things that are contrary to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And like all other globally unacceptable behaviour the education of the global population will ultimately have to include effective sanctions on any regional group that attempts to persist in believing that they do not need to change their minds and behave more responsibly.

    The inevitable result of the persistent reluctance of people to behave better is effective penalties that they angrily refuse to accept because they demand 'No restrictions on their freedoms of belief or actions'.

    Constantly improved objective understanding, not just climate science, is strengthening the objective basis for ethical behaviour. It also clarifies the basic understanding of equality for subjective beliefs while reinforcing that a subjective belief does not over-rule, and should not even be allowed to compromise, an objective understanding.

    That strengthening objective evidence and understanding makes it harder to maintain subjective beliefs or dogma. That has angered many people who want to benefit by holding on to subjective personal interest beliefs (dogma's and ideologies) that are contrary to constantly improving understanding of Good Objectives - Public Good. Anger is one response to the anxiety of the cognitive dissonance they face. But learning to change their minds is the only way to resolve the anger causing anxiety.

    The angry people pursuing personal interests that are contrary to the Public Good Objectives can be seen to be gathering together to support each others' understandably unacceptable wants and desires. This can be seen to be the fundamental core of many Unite the Right movements like the one growing inside the Republican Party in the USA. Rather than setting up an additional option for voters, Unite the Right groups hope to take over established conservative brands and fool responsible conservative minded people into voting for them by claiming the Conservative name/brand.

    Responsible people would disagree with the understandably unacceptable beliefs and desires of those new members now entrenching themselves inside the disguise of the 'taken-over Brand'. The hope is that those who are strongly inclined to simply like the brands 'Conservative or Libertarian' will see no choice but to support what they can understand is unacceptable. And that tactic works very well in a population raised to respond to misleading marketing messages and develop powerful Brand, Religion or Nationalist loyalty (Powerful for ISIS. Powerful for Unite the Right).

    As John Stuart Mill warned in "On Liberty": “If society lets a considerable number of its members grow up mere children, incapable of being acted on by rational consideration of distant motives, society has itself to blame for the consequences.”

    The future of humanity requires the Leaders of global humanity to understand their obligation to educate the global population and minimize the number of people who 'grow up mere children'. Climate Science and the tragic examples of the responses of people based on the 'freedom to think and do as they please' have developed a great Case Study for that education. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, the Winners who understandably do not deserve to be Winners will be effectively Re-Educated/Corrected or be restricted from significantly impacting others or the future of humanity.

    The Winners who fail to act responsibly to Sustainably Develop the Public Good are developing damaging results and will persist until they are educated/corrected to 'sustainably change their minds'.

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  27. Adding to my previous comment:

    As a Professional Engineer I have also encountered many cases where already developed/built items were discovered to be unacceptable from the perspective of the Public Interest. In those cases the resistance to accepting that understanding increased with the magnitude of the costs associated with correcting the problem. And in some cases those facing that 'cost or loss of benefit' went in search of different professionals hoping to find someone who would say the item did not need to be corrected.

    Fortunately, in every case like that that I was involved in the clients never did find a alternate professional who would say things were OK as they are. However, the news is full of tragedies that are the result of pursuers of private interest being made aware of the unacceptability of what they desire but seeking out and finding someone who would support/excuse their damaging desires.

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  28. OPOF @26

    I also work in a design / technical field so completely identify with those concerns. I have sometimes experienced the conflict with the public good and technical safety codes on one hand, and clients aspirations and cost cutting desires on the other hand. Its a challenge, but important to not cut corners and compromise, and when professionals have done this they run the risk of being caught and being the ones blamed anyway.

    This is one reason engineering professions have codes of ethics and safety codes, to ensure standards are kept high and avoid client pressure by being able to show them we have no choice. As a consequnce of having codes,  its natural for people like you and I to see this extended to robust measures to reduce the climate problem.

    It seems obvious to me environmental issues are on global scale now, and we cant avoid some sort of global management and sets of rules on the issue, but balanced with allowing as much free market innovation and movement as possible within these boundaries. It cant be one or the other. it has to be both, and a carbon tax is part of it along with hopefully more enlighteend leadership. It is so obvious to me that I get frustrated that people can't see the obvious. The  denialist positions in the more libertarian leading factions seem excatly that, denialist of the obvious, and nothing more or less.

    "But learning to change their minds is the only way to resolve the anger causing anxiety."

    Yes, if only they could see this.

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  29. nigelj@28,

    Your reply has prompted me to some new thoughts and recognize important 'paradigm shifts' that people need to be 'educated to understand' (deprogrammed may be a more appropriate term than educated).

    When the ethical requirement is defined in ways consistent with the many ways I stated it in my comment @26, what is being discussed should not be called a Carbon Tax or Carbon Fee. It should be called a Carbon Fine or Carbon Penalty. The following are example statements regarding Ethics definition from m comment @26:

    • Ethical - "understandably unacceptable options must not be allowed to compete for popularity or profitability"
    • Ethical - "...action is required to terminate the creation of increased harm by pursuers of personal benefit from the ultimately unsustainable burning of non-renewable fossil fuels."
    • Unethical - "... people focused on unjustifiably getting away with obtaining self-interest benefits for only a portion of humanity to the detriment of current day Others and to the detriment of all of future humanity."
    • Unethical - "... implying that the protection of the public interest from the potential actions of a pursuers of personal benefit should be compromised/balanced with a private interest for more personal benefit."
    • Ethical - "Good results are sustainable improvements of the living circumstances of the least fortunate and future generations."
    • Unethical - "... trying to limit awareness and proper understanding of climate science through misleading marketing ..."

    Calling something a Fee or Tax implies that it is OK to do as long as you can afford it (like parking, or being a user of a State or National Park). And sometimes taxes are collected on activities that only harm the person choosing to do them (such as Liquor, Cigarette and Marijuana consumption), implying that those actions should be limited but a person should be free to knowledgeably choose to do them (other legal penalties are applied to harmful activities related to those 'personal self-harming choices', such as advertising to deliberately increase awareness and temptation to do the self-harming activity).

    The implication of fees or taxes is that if you are richer you are justified to do more of the activity that is being taxed or fee-charged if you choose to. That implied justification is not appropriate for GHG creation. We do not have Speeding Fees or Drunk Driving Taxes, and we should not have Carbon Fees or Carbon Taxes. The use of Carbon Fee is more marketable than Carbon Tax, and both are more marketable than Carbon Fine or Carbon Penalty. But the marketability of unethical things is part of the problem to be corrected.

    The creation of GHG emissions is not like those Taxed self-harming items. The person doing it obtains a benefit, almost no self-harm experienced, while objectively creating harm to others. And the activity needs to be terminated, not just be reduced or limited.

    The understanding developed by climate science is that it is unethical for some members of a current generation of humanity to benefit from creating additional GHG by burning non-renewable fossil fuels. The further implication is that the more fortunate people are expected to be 'less harmful/more helpful' because those who are more fortunate can 'afford to behave better and understand how to' and should be leading by example (they should not be free to choose whether or not they will behave better or be more helpful and less harmful).

    Making additional GHG is not a limited opportunity that the more fortunate should be able to benefit from as much as they can 'legally afford to'. CO2 has already been pushed beyond 400 ppm, so the creation of additional GHG is an activity that needs to be rapidly reduced to zero along with actions to reduce amounts of already created GHG (350 ppm is an appropriate understood upper limit to avoid imposing harm and challenges on future generations. Higher values than 350 ppm are into the realm of unjustifiably compromising the Public Interest for limited Private Interests. The future generations and the least fortunate cannot be excluded from consideration just because they have no financial, legal or marketing power).

    Ethically, the only people with an excuse for trying to benefit from new GHG creation are the least fortunate (due to the urgency of their need and likely lack of awareness and understanding). And the least fortunate should be helped by the most fortunate to sustainably develop to live a basic decent life in ways that create the least possible additional GHG (because the less new GHG that gets created the less GHG reduction has to be done).

    What needs to become understood is that Sovereign Rule of Law is only legitimate when it is Ruled by Ethics, constantly being updated/corrected to address new awareness/understanding of what is unacceptable. Sovereign regional efforts to make-up Bad/Unethical Rules of Law cannot be excused as 'legitimate Rule of Law' no matter how regionally popular that type of unethical Law-making-up may regionally be.

    The new and improving understandings of climate science have exposed some major 'Unethical Legal Matters' and related misunderstandings. Freedom of speech is abused to excuse unethical excuse-making by already fortunate people unethically pursuing more personal benefit from the understandably unsustainable and harmful burning of non-renewable fossil fuels. The following are other examples of corrections (paradigm shifting) of 'Dogma/Beliefs that can be objectively shown to be misunderstandings that need correcting':

    • Legal is not the same as Ethical (unethical harmful making-up of laws or enforcement happens)
    • Popular and Profitable are not reliable measures of success or legitimacy (less ethical behaviour can be popular and profitable even when understandably harmful)
    • Taxes are not inherently Bad (effective use of taxes to sustainably improve the circumstances of the least fortunate is Good, and more Good is Better)
    • Paying a Tax does not necessarily legitimize an action (paying a Carbon Tax does not make the creation of new GHG 'acceptable/ethical')
    • People being freer to believe whatever they wish and do as they please is unlikely to develop a Good Result (unless everyone ethically self-limits their behaviour, the reality is that some people will always try to Win by getting away with less ethical behaviour).

    The Sustainable Development Goals, Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement are consistent with that understanding of what is ethical (in different ways to different degrees). And it is those Objective Ethical Understandings and Requirements that many people fearfully/angrily react to because of the cognitive dissonance with their preferred personal beliefs and desires (they have developed perceptions of prosperity and opportunity and believe they should be able to win any way they can get away with - including developing and supporting excuses for unethical behaviour, hoping that regional popularity of understandably unacceptable actions will Win them more undeserved but desired personal benefits).

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