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Carbon Tax – What I Think

June 29, 2011

A had a few people ask me what my views were on the looming ‘carbon-tax’ that’s currently being debated by Australian politicians. I feel that giving a one line answer is not sufficient enough as a reply to the curious. I get a sense that a lot of people wrap the concepts of ‘carbon-tax’ and ‘climate change’ into a single unit and their opinions of the two merge into a single undifferentiated whole. In other words If I said I am against carbon-taxing it would automatically imply that I am sceptical of climate change.

Carbon taxing is proposed by the government as a way of mitigating climate change by charging CO2 polluters for the amount of CO2 they release into the atmosphere. The proposition exists only because of and is linked to climate change, so I feel I must start there.

I feel I am only capable of understanding so much on the topic of climate change without becoming a full time scientist in the field. The subject is very complex and I sense the inability of grasping the intricate details; data modelling and statistical interpretations that occur behind it. Having said that I have taken time to read into the topic and walk away from it with an understanding of data suited for the laymen. With that knowledge under my hat I can form better opinions on the topic and avoid blind assertions.

The best way to address how I feel about both climate change and carbon tax is to break the issue down and address it separately. A good way of breaking down the topic is in the form of questions, I have chosen three, each with multiple answers that represent peoples beliefs (including mine).

Q1) Is climate change a real phenomenon that is currently occurring?

Yes) This is the view taken by most scientists who study the subject. After reading a variety of sources and opinions on the subject it appears that there are definite signs of changes in the current climate. Some signs include reductions is glaciers & ice on the poles and increases in various greenhouse gases. Also what appears to be trends of warmer mean temperatures in recent years. So I am of the opinion that some form of climate change is occurring.

No) There are people who deny that any form of climate change is occurring. From personal experience these people usually subscribe to views of sinister motives of governments, science agencies and even world powers of fabricating the issue for personal gain. The scientific findings seem to have little value to this group, unless offcourse it confirms to their view already. There are also groups such as oil companies who deny it on financial grounds.

Q2) Is Climate change primarily man-made?

Maybe/Not sure) I like to remind people that many issues are complex and cannot be simply expressed as black or white. We can divide them for convenience yet there will remain areas of grey, that may indicate more research is required. So far I don’t have a strong opinion on whether climate change is primarily man-made, strongly influences by nature or some combination of both. For example an interesting fact I learn while reading on the subject is this: the major greenhouse gases are water vapor, which causes about 36–70 percent of the greenhouse effect; carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes 9–26 percent; methane (CH4), which causes 4–9 percent; and ozone (O3). So the biggest greenhouse is water vapor. I am not sure why that wouldn’t be the biggest focus in trying to mitigate climate. Methane doesn’t seem far behind CO2 yet seems to take a back seat. Such information was surprising to me and reinforces my view that I just don’t know enough about the causes of the change and need to continue to follow the research.

I feel people make valid points when they bring up natural cycles such as the solar cycle, carbon cycle and other weather phenomenon i.e. El Nino, or when they give examples of past periods of much colder climates e.g. Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. Such effects can cause temporary but natural changes to the climate. I cringe a bit when I hear people point to any major natural disaster in the news and depending on their view say things like “there hasn’t been that many hurricanes in one year since 1960, see climate change is reeking havoc, we are doomed!!” or the opposite cynical remarks, “blizzard covering half of America, haha, where is your global warming now!”. Just a side note global warming is technically a correct term, because the main trends of temperatures are upwards. However the changes in atmospheric/ocean temperatures appear to alter weather patterns differently in different areas of the world and can cause more severe weather patterns regardless of type.

Finally, there is evidence that the amount of CO2 we are releasing into the atmosphere since the 1700’s has steadily increased and is much higher than ever before in human history, but I am still divided on how significant that is in the grand picture of things.

So I am of a mixed opinion on the leading cause of the climate change.

No) People who accept climate change but deny that humans have any effect on it may be lacking interest in the subject or the science behind it, others feel that the world will be okie regardless and that they don’t have to worry about it.

There are also those who do spend time reading up on all the climate change issues and come to the opinion that it’s mostly natural phenomenon. I don’t have a major problem with that as long as they do construct sound arguments based on available information. As I said earlier I believe the jury is still out on how much impact human-kind is behind climate change.

Yes) There may be dogged believers in this camp who can be clouded by their own ideologies. They would usually be classified as strong environmentalists who see the industrial world as the cancer of this planet. Any human pollution is bad, and thus any industrial by-product must have dire consequences for Earth, ‘If I don’t live in a grass hut and wash once a week’ I may as well be dumping radioactive napalm on baby kangaroos.

However there are informed people who have properly evaluated the evidence and came to the conclusion that humans do have a large part in the climate change, I don’t have a problem with them either.

Q3) Finally, regardless of whether climate change is natural or man-made should humans attempt to respond to it & mitigate it’s impact?

My Answer) This is the final question that addresses the topic we started with; ‘carbon-tax’. Climate change regardless of its causes can potentially have drastic effects on many people in the world. It could cause some places to be less habitable and effect crop yields in hotter regions. Tundras, mangroves, and coral reefs, are much more susceptible to temperature changes and may result in ripple effects effecting ecosystems. A lot of animals are sensitive to changes in environment and can go extinct. One objection to this is when people say, Earth has undergone countless changes of climate in the past (e.g.Antarcticause to be habitable) and that 99% of species that existed are extinct, so it’s only natural. My counter-view is that the human society has become so complex & large, and more dependent on the limited resources & land available, that changes in the environment if left alone will cause large problems in many parts of the world and will effect potentially millions if not billions in various way. I therefore see the issue as something that should be addressed in some form regardless whether it is man-made or natural

But here is the answer you have been patiently waiting for. Is the ‘carbon-tax’ the solution? My current belief is that ‘NO’ it’s NOT. It will have little effect on preventing the amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Overall the amount of CO2 being released will still slowly grow with countries like China & India racing to become developed nations. As I mentioned earlier CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas and not the largest so it gives me little hope of believing that carbon-tax will do much apart from increase costs to companies and give more money to the government.

I am of the opinion that instead governments should increase investments in re-usable energy. R&D that would yield innovation, make the technology more competitive with oil & at the same time  address the climate change problem.

Better yet thinking outside the box and coming up with solutions that would appear radical but could potentially combat any future need from the increase in temperature is my pick. There is a good entry in Wikipedia under’ ‘GeoEngineering’ that gives many solutions. One of them caught my eye by the name of ‘space sunshade’ which are basically disks that could be put in orbit and reflect back a percentage of  the suns rays, in effect offsetting the increased in potential atmospheric temperatures. Sounds awesome to me.

Space Sunshade

No) If you don’t accept climate change then the logical conclusion is, don’t do anything. It’s logical but the premise is wrong, so the solution is wrong as well.

If you accept climate change but for whatever reason feel indifference, powerlessness, or an ideological line of reasoning stops you acting then a more complex response is required and will not be covered here further. I have however addressed some reasons I feel something should be done in the answer above.

Hope this made sense and clarified my views on carbon-tax. If you are itching to give me your opinion, I am more than happy to hear it, feel free to leave a comment.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Alen permalink
    June 29, 2011 11:07 pm

    I’m undecided on the issue. While I’m skeptical of a view that suggests humans are the sole or primary cause of climate change, I think it would be deceitful not to admit that we must have had some effect on the environment and that we should actually look at ways at reducing our negative impact on the environment.

    The problem with the Australian carbon tax is multifaceted. Firstly, by and large the public opinion is against it, yet it is being introduced nevertheless. This of course is to be expected in Australia which is for the most part a “nanny state”. Secondly, I feel that is mostly for show. It makes like they’re doing something when they’re not. It’s a publicity stunt, that also generates revenue. Thirdly, and related to the previous point: it will not cause positive change. It will instead cause further costs past onto the general public.

    To make a big change, you need to spend big dollars and no government is up for that. I think if a large investment is made now in furthering technologies that are environment friendly and that do not use finite supplies, we will come out much better than those who wait until they’re forced to do something about it.

  2. July 2, 2011 1:26 pm

    Hi Alen
    We seem to be aligned in the same direction on the issue.

  3. Alen permalink
    July 4, 2011 6:19 pm

    Yeah, I guess I kinda just reiterated what you said already 😛

  4. Jim Laughead permalink
    July 6, 2011 6:47 am

    There are no trees at 20,000 feet. over 70,000 tons of Co2 jet emissions are being dumped into the Jet Stream and air per HOUR! Tornados follow the Jet Stream!

  5. July 6, 2011 9:00 am

    Hi Jim. Not sure what you mean when you mentioned tornados following the jet stream.
    The first part of your post seems to imply that the air-traffic is a large contributer of CO2. It may be, but my post is argueing whether a tax would have a substantial difference on peoples travel habits, and should there be an alternate ways of addressing it.

  6. jdlaughead permalink
    July 7, 2011 2:35 pm

    That is what they do, in the US. If Jet Emissions is causing all this bad weather, then the Air Lines should pay for the Damage. High Speed rail could cut the Co2 Pollution in the air.

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