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jim kirby

Global warming is a problem characterized by the threat of future effects of atmospheric carbon on humans. Posner’s analysis is incomplete.

There are two fundamental ways to reduce the threat: reduce the carbon and reduce the proliferation of humans. A tax on breeding would be more effective as a carbon tax in reducing the threat because of the multiplier effect of fewer humans affected by less pollution produced by the reduced population. It would have the added benefit of reducing threats to other life forms affected by wanton proliferation of humans.

Furthermore, a carbon tax would also fall on those who have already done their part in reducing the threat by not breeding, especially older non-breeders who will have to pay now for future benefits to others.

Here is how a Nanny Carbon Tax will work: it will be so burdensome that a single mother raising 4 children will be exempted or subsidized! For the sake of the children, of course. Now why does Posner think it just to tax a non-breeding senior to support the wanton proliferation of a young woman?

Jonathan J Ha


The proposal of a Carbon Tax as suggested is in of itself not a bad idea. However, it is not enough. As you pointed out, it's Achilles' Heel is that the largest companies can simply exceed the limit and continue emitting carbons, albeit possibly at a lower rate because of a new equilibrium point in which it no longer becomes economically feasible to continue. Furthermore, depending on the way the tax system is set up, larger companies may simply budget in addition carbon costs to their suppliers, essentially driving up the price on almost everything while having a minimum impact on carbon emissions.

Top down approaches, such as the carbon tax or some of its more exotic variants such as a tax on digging out carbon in the first place (see "Pay nations to keep carbon in the ground" by Bard Harstad in the Financial Times, July 4th) is that it assumes that people can be goaded merely by prices. Perhaps a more effective approach is to combine a Carbon Tax system with both more education, particularly amongst the youths, and a paradigm shift.
Teaching youths about the science of climate change might hopefully create a grassroots desire for change in overall carbon policy, such as in Europe where a Carbon tax system, albeit defanged, is in place. It gives a double impetus for polluters to stop both from the top down and from the bottom up.

Further, the carbon debate should not always be centered around the idea of global warming. While truly a noble cause, global warming is not immediate nor tangible enough to drive an impact without having the luxury of collecting data trends over a number of years. Rather, it can be phrased around other talking points ranging from health (ie smog and water pollution) to national security (the US is still dependent on many other countries for fuel).

Carbon rights is coming to be one of the definitive issues of the 21st century. Yet, like carbons' effects, it is being fought slowly on a grand scale due to the sheer complexity and political difficulty it poses. Complexity can be overcome with passion; there are plenty of minds, young and old, already working to come up with alternatives to carbon based fuels. The political difficulty is different. Rather than rely on the courage of an outstanding Congress or waiting for another Churchill or F.D.R., we should seek to change the political arena to begin with.

Hall Of Record

Another, and perhaps more reasonable approach to a CO2 tax [not Carbon Tax], would be what was proposed here:


Eric Rasmusen

"an ambitious program of limiting carbon emissions from coal-burning electric plants and other sources of carbon dioxide. The hope is that the program if successful will inspire other countries, especially rapidly industrializing ones (notably China), to follow suit. The hope seems quite unrealistic. "

A carbon tax has the same problem. It imposes costs on the US economy,to the extent that it is more distortionary than our current tax system aside from any beneficial warming effect, and it will only trivially help with any global carbon dioxide problem.

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