12 Sep 2016: Opinion

Why We Need a Carbon Tax,
And Why It Won’t Be Enough

Putting a price on carbon is an idea whose time has come, with even Big Oil signaling it may drop its long-standing opposition to a carbon tax. But the question is, has it come too late?

by bill mckibben

Luisa Rivera/Yale E360

It feels as if we may be getting close, or at least closer, as a nation to putting some kind of price on global warming pollution.

Bernie Sanders campaigned all year on a straight-up carbon tax, and though Hillary Clinton hasn’t signed on to that, her team on the Democratic Party platform committee did agree to compromise language calling for pricing carbon and methane to reflect their “negative externalities.” (Full disclosure: serving as a Sanders representative on the platform committee, I put forward the tax resolution on his behalf, and, after it failed, put forward the language on carbon pricing.)

Meanwhile, Exxon — weighed down by investigative journalists showing it lied through its corporate teeth for decades about climate change — seems to be putting at least a little lobbying muscle behind its long-standing theoretical call for a carbon price. It’s true that the House Republican caucus voted unanimously (with one abstention) against a carbon tax, but since a great many of them are in essence employees of the fossil fuel industry that stance could shift quickly. Pressured by the Paris agreement, the American Petroleum Institute, which is the polite way of saying Big Oil, has recently formed a “task force” to “revisit the industry’s long-held opposition to taxing greenhouse gas emissions.” Meanwhile, devoted activists from the Citizens Climate Lobby have been working steadily to erode opposition among individual Republican officeholders, a noble, if so far quixotic, task.

Oh, and the Trump candidacy just might be Titanic enough to return control of the U.S. Senate to Team Democrat, whose likely captain — majority-leader-in waiting Chuck Schumer — has begun making serious noises about carbon pricing as a revenue source for a strapped government.

There is a very real sense in which this is good news. I’ve been arguing for a price on carbon since, oh, 1989, when I wrote the first book for a general audience on what we then called the greenhouse effect. I would estimate that I’ve said in roughly 3,000 speeches some variant of the line that “it makes no sense that the fossil fuel industry is allowed to put out their waste for free, using the atmosphere as an open sewer.” And indeed it does make no sense — it’s only the historical accident that we never knew CO2 was dangerous that’s left us with this perverse arrangement where, unlike every other form of waste, it carries no cost and hence no incentive to avoid its production.
Carbon should not flow unpriced into the atmosphere, any more than you should be allowed to toss your garbage in the street.
The minute, in the late 1980s, that we started to understand the risk is the same minute that economists left, right, and center began recommending a price on carbon as the most efficient way to help us out of our predicament.

To understand why, listen to Charlie Komanoff, energy wonk extraordinaire and head of the Carbon Tax Center, testifying before the Senate in 2014:

The U.S. energy system is so diverse, our economic system so decentralized, and our species so varied and innovating that no subsidies regime, no matter how enlightened, and no system of rules and regulations, no matter how well-intentioned, can elicit the billions of carbon-reducing decisions and behaviors that a swift full-scale transition from carbon fuels requires. At the same time, nearly all of those decisions and behaviors share a common, crucial element: they are affected, and even shaped, by the relative prices of available or emerging energy sources, systems, and choices.

That’s always been the argument: Since every action of a modern life involves using fossil fuel, the only way to get enough change is to send a price signal through the matrix, so that everyone from investors to car buyers to electric-toothbrush-users will find their behavior changing automatically. It’s the one big action that encompasses all the others. As Camila Thorndike, the dynamic young leader of an effort to get a carbon price passed in Oregon, told the Democrats at their platform hearings, “As a cross-sector and market-based solution, a carbon tax empowers business to profitably transition to the clean-energy economy.” That may sound a little wonky, but she added that she and many other young women she knew were wondering whether they should have children in a world of inexorably rising temperatures. “In a world diseased with distrust,” she said, “may you find the courage to commit to this honest solution.”

So that’s the good news. And it is good news — there is no intellectually respectable reason that carbon should flow unpriced into the atmosphere, any more than there’s a reason you should be allowed to toss your garbage into the middle of the street every night. Cleaning up after yourself is a mark of civilization.

There is, however, more to be said.

In the first place, most of the carbon pricing schemes adopted around the world haven’t worked spectacularly. These so-called cap-and-trade systems set limits on carbon and allow companies to buy and sell allowances.
A carbon tax and rebate scheme should be a kind of perpetual motion machine, a virtuous cycle.
When trace pollutants like nitrogen and sulfur were the issue two decades ago, schemes like these worked well. But in the vastly larger carbon markets, with endless opportunities to game the system, the results have been mixed at best: prices have crashed, entire industries have used political muscle to win exemptions, and the net results — though such pricing plans now cover about 12 percent of the world’s emissions — have been far from earth-shaking.

A much more straightforward plan is simply to tax carbon directly. It removes the arbitraging games and artful dodges that have helped undermine cap and trade schemes in places like Europe, but in return it requires that politicians vote for… a tax. And indeed that they keep voting to raise it, year after year. The result, in the real world, is likely to be a relatively low price on carbon that then stays put — it’s hard to imagine politicians with the gumption, year after year, to hand their opponents an easy issue. Exxon, for instance, has been talking about $50 a ton — and it’s a certainty that if Exxon is talking about it, that means they’ve modeled that price to make sure it won’t put a crimp in their business. (In fact, as Exxon and the other oil majors have increasingly turned toward the natural gas business as their future, a price on carbon may nudge markets in the direction they’d want them to go.)

Probably the best hope for a price on carbon that kept going up, in order to keep the pressure on carbon emissions, is the so-called “fee-and-dividend” approach that Citizens Climate Lobby, the eminent climatologist James Hansen, and others like Thorndike, have tirelessly advocated. It sets a price on carbon, and then rebates all the revenue straight to citizens, perhaps even sending them a monthly check. Yes, the price we pay at the pump goes up, which is good, because then we ride bikes more; but yes, the check covers the increased cost. Everyone’s made whole, and if you push up the tax you push up the rebate too. It should be a kind of perpetual motion machine, a virtuous cycle.

It’s actually kind of worked in the one place it’s been tried — British Columbia, where emissions fell 19% in the years after the fee went into place. But even there politics began to drag the process down. The last increase in the tax was in 2012, and so emissions have started rising again; in fact, a new study due out this month shows that they may be rising faster than untaxed emissions elsewhere in Canada.

At best, a carbon tax is one arrow in a quiver full of other arrows we’re going to need to let loose in a volley.
Carbon rebates also come with one obvious moral and intellectual flaw: most of the damage from both climate change and air pollution has fallen on poor people, people of color, and Native nations, both in our country and around our world. They need to be treated fairly in any rebate plan. And any such rebates shouldn’t overlook the estimated nearly 12 million undocumented Americans who contribute to the economy — and cause far less than their proportional share of emissions. Environmental justice would mean a truly “fair” system compensated them for that history; it would also require policies to make sure that carbon pricing doesn’t perpetuate toxic “hot spots” in poor communities as companies look for least-cost ways to deal with the new reality. Furthermore, environmental justice demands that carbon prices don’t create a windfall on other of forms of ecological or toxic energy production, such as mass incineration or mega-hydro dams.

None of this is impossible, and the good people pushing for such schemes recognize these needs — but none of it is easy, either.

There’s one other truly grave danger with carbon pricing that zealous advocates occasionally do fall into: the idea that it’s the only thing that needs to be done. Exxon, for instance, has made it clear that the price for a carbon tax should be an end to other kinds of regulations (and probably a corporate tax cut); to bring Republicans along you’d need some kind of grand bargain that, perhaps, limited the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon, or scrapped Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

One of the temptations I try to avoid is saying, “If only you’d paid attention back then.” In 1989, back when I wrote that first book, it’s plausible that a low price on carbon, set to rise slowly over the years, would have been enough to bend the curve of emissions enough to save us from climate change. But in 2016, that’s no longer true. At best it’s one arrow in a quiver full of other arrows we’re also going to need to let loose in a volley.

We’re no longer talking about cutting emissions one or two percent a year; now, with the poles actually melting, coral reefs literally dying in a matter of weeks, and temperatures shattering new records every month, we need to do everything.


How British Columbia Gained
By Putting a Price on Carbon

How British Columbia Gained By Putting a Price on Carbon
Seven years ago, British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in North America to adopt an economy-wide carbon tax. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, economics expert Stewart Elgie explains how the tax helped cut the province’s fossil fuel use without hurting its economy.
Not just a price on carbon, but dramatic subsidies for renewables to speed their spread. Not just a price on carbon, but an end to producing coal and gas and oil on public land. Not just a price on carbon, but a ban on fracking, which is sending clouds of methane into the atmosphere. Not just a price on carbon, but a dozen other major regulatory changes that have some chance of cutting emissions the six or seven percent a year that’s now required, a rate far greater than we’ve ever seen before.

We are, you might say, in a war, and if that’s the case then think of a price on carbon as the infantry. It can get things done, but it’s going to need the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines, as well. If the climate movement stays unified around a suite of solutions, instead of resisting the temptation to grab at one, we have a chance. An outside chance, but a chance.

POSTED ON 12 Sep 2016 IN Biodiversity Business & Innovation Climate Energy Policy & Politics Science & Technology Sustainability North America 


The very strong carbon pricing proposal on the
ballot in Washington State this fall, I-732, has
highly progressive provisions built in. The new tax
revenues would be used, in part, to fund the
state's working families tax credit (benefiting
hundreds of thousands of low income families) and
to reduce the state's regressive sales tax (again, of
disproportionate benefit to low income residents,
who spend the highest proportion of their incomes
on sales tax).

It's time for Washington voters to say #YesOn732.
It's not the only solution, by any means. But
elections are not time to allow the perfect to be
the enemy of the (very) good.
Posted by Ted Wolf on 12 Sep 2016

I love Bill McKibben and as proof, I've sold over
300 copies of his book Eaarth, at events where I
speak. However Bill McKibben is making mistakes
here and in a recent op-ed about Hillary in the LA
Times. I totally agree with his opinion that fee and
dividend will not be enough, but all the other
arrows he touts have the best chance of gaining
real traction once we pass fee and dividend.
Talking about them now to the "world"
accomplishes nothing. This article will actually be
used against the efforts of
CitizensClimateLobby.org (CCL) and Camila and
Hansen, but Bill McKibben, a child of the protest
driven 60's, doesn't see that because 1) he is so
well-versed on the growing and immediate threat
and has seen so little progress since writing The
End of Nature and founding 350.org and 2) he is
mad and lets his anger out. The many of the
Americans needed to pressure Congress to pass
fee and dividend can't relate to his alarm. They
see a just world and ignore reality. He can't relate
to the current political landscape as well as say
Camila Thorndike and her group #putapriceonit
can. She knows fee and dividend is not enough,
but she is going to try and explain to millennials
that we need to pass it yesterday. That will
engage the world and then maybe she'll look at
American fracking. It is noteworthy that Bill
doesn't mention divestiture which I did long ago
because of Bill but I spend no time talking about
divestiture today. It is time for Bill and Camila to
team up, pass fee and dividend, and then see what
next great thing they can do together.
Posted by Mark Tabbert on 12 Sep 2016

And not one word on population control...
Posted by ansola on 12 Sep 2016

Bill, are you really going to sit back silently and
allow the strongest climate policy in the nation
(yeson732.org) to go unmentioned and unnoticed
because of political awkwardness or something??

You're still my hero Bill, I'm just disappointed.
Progress should be placed on the grassroots grit of
students and communities around the country
pushing for solutions, not on the influential
dominance of a few executive directors of multi-
million dollar enviro groups that decide who they
do or don't give their blessings to.

The same inspiration you gave to thousands of
young students around the nation to #divest led
them to gather signatures for a year in order to
have this opportunity to put a price on carbon (and
make WA tax system much more fair to low-
income families) Vote Yes on I-732 if you live in
Washington State!!

Posted by Ben Silesky on 12 Sep 2016

Great analysis! Implementing a carbon tax is a
common sense first step in developing a cleaner
economy and mitigating the impact of carbon
emissions. Washington voters will be voting on the
nation's first carbon tax this fall, Initiative 732. Visit
yeson732.org and help turn Mr. McKibben's proposal
into legislation. We need to act now on climate
change! #YesOn732
Posted by Quillan Robinson on 12 Sep 2016

I'm as tired of beating head against wall as Bill, and I
share his despair. Cannot give up, but faith wanes
that we can do enough in time.
Posted by Don Matheson on 13 Sep 2016

BILL IS NOT CONNECTING THE DOTS. Look, I love Bill too. He's a true hero. I echo the praise of the previous commenters, and their problems w/his message too. I want to make something very clear here. Bill is either missing a crucial fact, or else he has chosen to not make it clear. (I want to believe the former.) To say YES, we need a price on carbon *and* we also need "XYZ" suggests these are *separate* solutions, like floss your teeth *and* use your turn signals. It's wrong to compartmentalize these solutions as such.

For one thing, it sells short (WAY short) the value of a carbon tax, considered by *nearly all* thought leaders as THE solution "the Holy Grail" of climate action. Why? Because it's a catalyst of so many of downstream solutions from green-tech to saving lives, to job creation and income inequality, if rebated correctly. The myriad of solutions so many of us have been working hard to achieve for years would suddenly become closer to reality by fixing ONE big thing. See, one thing stands in the way PRICE POINT.

Fix this and the rest falls into place. Repair the biggest accounting error in the history of our species -- remove biggest free-lunch of all time -- and you will see an eventual end to fracking, mountain-top removal, oil exploration, and so many insane activities we engage in because of obscenely underpriced "Energy from Hell." Activities like the People's Climate March, anti-fracking rallies, and holding "Hands Across The Sand" to protest offshore oil drilling would eventually fade away, rendered a thing of the past if fossil fuel extraction simply becomes too expensive to continue. There’s NOTHING, like a carbon price to trigger so many other solutions to skyrocket, from renewable energy, to green building, to greater demand for energy efficiency, more sustainable procurement, green education everything from EVs to PVs! Suddenly, billions of everyday people are driven to adopt lower-carbon lifestyles, which, to date, has been the choice of a relative few the informed and concerned. Killing the Billion$ in energy subsidies along a predictable, transparent and steadily rising tax on fossil fuels will send a strong price signal. Market actors all around the world will react overnight, triggering financial decisions that will usher in a low-carbon economy. ONE upstream solution rises above the rest – PRICING CARBON. It's the catalyst of all the rest, Bill! Don't diminish it by putting it on par with all the other downstream solutions it must (and will) trigger. If we want to move the needle, we have to move the market. And Congress. We need top down and bottom up messaging. CCL is doing it. Join Citizens' Climate Lobby. We're already changing the conversation on Capitol Hill.
Posted by Greg Hamra on 13 Sep 2016

As always, I found this well written McKibben analysis frank and informative. I, and I believe many thousands of others familiar with his years of work admire and listen to McKibben because he is well informed, acts in good faith and is honest with us. Please, let us not quibble with his essential truths-and counsel him to pull his rhetorical punch- because we under estimate the ability of our fellow citizens to hear, understand and act. Yes, this struggle has been frustrating, but no we should not adopt the short term tactics of deception.
Posted by Robert Funicello on 13 Sep 2016

We need to directly regulate carbon.

Any extra carbon released into the atmosphere at this point is basically a bomb being launched onto our children’s heads.

If your neighbor was making bombs that you knew were going to end up dropped on your children, would you just want there to be a slightly higher tax on the bomb making materials so that (if he didn't happen to be rich) he might be persuaded to make just a bit fewer bombs?

No, you would want there to be very strict limits and eventual banishment of the bomb making materials, ideally sooner on the total banishment rather than later.

Why is that so hard for people to see?
Posted by John Harknes on 13 Sep 2016

McKibben always talks about methane from fracking but almost never talks about methane from livestock, though the IPCC and other estimates have typically put global methane emissions at roughly 95-100 Mt per year for oil/gas and for livestock enteric emissions. Manure-based methane emissions add another 10 Mt. Even if fracked methane is substantially higher, all sources of methane emission (including livestock-related enteric emissions) need to be taxed ruthlessly if we are to have any chance of re-establishing a sustainable planet within the next 300 years
Posted by Todd Shuman on 14 Sep 2016

It may be useful to state explicitly what might be
assumed in the piece: it is necessary to have bi-
partisan Congressional action that minimizes the
risk of reversal from election to election. The off
the record conversations with Republican
members indicate they want revenue neutrality,
some border adjustment to address unfair free
rider competition and some reduction of
regulations. The latter has merit if there is a
steadily rising carbon fee. Will established
interests and advocates understand and accept?
Insisting on a suite of regulatory programs will
likely undermine support for a carbon tax. Some
programs will be justified--those addressing non-
market impediments such as in residential
energy efficiency. The subsidies and mandates
for solar and wind, for example, will over time
become ineffective and unnecessary as fossil
energy costs escalate beyond competitiveness.

The characterization of cap and trade experience
is timely and accurate. With Europe ETS and
RGGI carbon prices under $5/ton CO2 after a
decade of implementation, and at least 10 others
around the world in the same situation, it is time
fo focus on the carbon fee and dividend. The
case for a fee and dividend is even more
compelling in developing countries with weak
institutions and serious corruption. The
complexity, lack of transparency and
administrative discretion of cap and trade are a
bad fit. Thanks, Bill.
Posted by Robert Archer on 14 Sep 2016

Definition of quixotic. 1 : foolishly impractical
especially in the pursuit of ideals especially :
marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or
extravagantly chivalrous action. 2 : capricious,

Citizens’ Climate Lobby. 1 : focused, systematic,
methodical use of the plan-act-reflect model with
measurable, sequential goals, cold-hard-truth-
seeking, well-researched group consultation
building realistically from first-hand observations
largely by teams not individuals, intensive
volunteer training to maximize the power of unified
action while celebrating continuous breakthroughs
in personal and political power. 2 : thorough
documentation of results moving most members of
Congress steadily closer to supporting Carbon Fee
and Dividend 3 : transcending disparaging labels
put on them from the left and the right because
CCLers do not label anyone 4 : seeking
understanding with environmental and EJ leaders
through study and deep discussion about reputable
data that predicts what will happen when society
gives maximally and fairly distributed revenue to
the market to judge all products.

To correct Bill's other misleading description here
about CCL, we do not work toward a goal to
‘steadily erode opposition among individual
Republican officeholders’. By listening we observe
that Republicans are not opposed to an economic
stimulus package there is a ready attraction to the
distribution mechanism part of Carbon Fee and
Dividend which is not shared by quite a few of the
other party. An appreciation of the power of 100\%
distribution of revenues is not a position we want
to see eroded. There is evidence to pursue a plan
that will fairly soon yield enough Members moving
from misconceptions to understanding on both
sides of the aisle to support an effective revenue
neutral carbon tax. This is happening in part
because both the policy and the CCL strategy are

No line of action is quixotic because the greatest
power comes from unity in diversity, from all
fronts, celebrating all actions, not trying to
homogenize the message. Quixotic suggests a
judging cynicism. There is no more room for even
the slightest hint of either. A great way to detox
from judging cynicism is to sincerely engage with
the work of CCL.

Posted by Jan E Dietrick on 14 Sep 2016

Bill, since carbon emissions are so bad- and since vegetarians emit less carbon than carnivores, since cattle need more acreage than vegetables and because all that extra acreage could revert to carbon sequestering forest- are you a vegetarian?

Also, it's been said that jet flight has the highest carbon emissions per passenger mile- so, have you switched to low carbon emitting train/bus travel?

Just curious.

Posted by Joe Zorzin on 14 Sep 2016

I totally agree with Bill that we need a carbon tax and a lot more. Population control gets little mention, but short of genocide on a scale never before seen it will not make a real difference now. We must concentrate on major lifestyle changes and technological advances to sharply reduce energy consumption per capita.

Bill says that we became aware of the climate change problem in the 1980s, but I became aware of it as a kid in the mid 1950s and science has understood it since 1896. It is discouraging to realize how much time has elapsed with nothing being accomplished.

As I see it all proposals seem quixotic. Setting a goal of 350ppm CO2 sounds good, but we are going in the opposite direction with no change in sight. We know what to do, but building a will to do it seems like an insuperable obstacle.
Posted by Daniel Cooper on 14 Sep 2016

So happy to see Bill mention and acknowledge the work of Citizens' Climate Lobby! I found about this wonderful group through my local 350.org chapter and have been an unpaid citizen lobbyist ever since. I see us making positive incremental changes with both sides on this issue and do believe we can get Carbon Fee & Dividend passed by the end of 2017 - call it quixotic, call it positive thinking, call it whatever. Atleast it's a plan that ALL sides can embrace - republicans, democrats, energy companies, AND the citizens who matter most! We will make this happen!
Posted by Steffi Rausch on 14 Sep 2016

Instead, how about a 1\% (or whatever level) tax on stock sales. Brokers collect it, it's depositing in the Treasury. Boom. You've held all industry accountable.
Posted by Joe Salata on 15 Sep 2016

Timely article. Two things happened just this
week in my world regarding it.

Yesterday I attended a briefing on the Clean
Power Plan by a number of well informed legal,
government and NGO "friends of the court".

It's clear that the CPP holds the danger of
becoming something closer to a ceiling on carbon
reduction than a floor, the and the reason is an
unreasonably complicated set of targets and
trades made necessary by the lack of a clear
carbon price signal.

The day before, there was a headline in the back
section of the Wall Street Journal announcing the
inevitability of a carbon tax. I'm not claiming they
were thrilled about it, but when these yahoos start
to see the light, it's an important signal.

And yes, regrettfully, Bill is falling for the "Better
is the enemy of good" in his argument. Tell
people they need to do one thing, and maybe you
can win the argument. Tell them they need to do
a dozen things, and you'll lose the first one 99\%
of the time.
Posted by Ski Milburn on 15 Sep 2016

Good summary.
Action is needed. Legislative action in MA is apparently stalled [S1747]. I am actively investigating the viability of a carbon fee and dividend ballot initiative statewide in 2018. Many impediments have been thrown up, but it is clearly possible since others have done this.
I would be happy to talk to anyone who would like to discuss this and help move the ball down the field.
Hugh Wright
Posted by Hugh Wright on 15 Sep 2016

McKibben again makes an important contribution by explaining that fee and dividend will not be enough not to mention that the very progressive tax that will be required to limit warming to between 1.5 and 2.0 C will only likely get political support if the enormity of the challenge facing the world is better understood. Although the Citizens Climate Lobby is a well organized organization making an incredibly important contribution to moving the climate policy agenda forward, it is failing to educate citizens that many policy steps must be taken including increases in renewables portfolio standards, net metering, fee-bate, and other policy interventions. A price on carbon, as the only solution to climate change, also undermines that ethical and moral arguments for changing national and regional government, and individual behavior. While the Citizen Climate lobby has been working assiduously for the last five years to put a price on carbon, we have lost valuable time explaining why we must get out of all fossil fuels, not only coal but natural gas. The Citizens Climate Lobby, despite its important work, has done little to expose the irresponsibility of most state governments, the fossil fuel industry for funding the criminal climate change disinformation campaign, the enormous harm US GHG are imposing on hundreds of millions of the poorest people, links between the fossil fuel industry and politicians who are blocking climate action at the state and national level, the failure of the press to cover urgency of climate change, why every day of delay makes the problem worse, and many other issues that civil society needs to understand.
Posted by Donald A. Brown on 16 Sep 2016

McKibben is right on target. The analogy to utilize forces equivalent to the Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force, is accurate. Stated in another way, we need to begin the attempt of reducing the impact of Climate Change with an effort comparable to, or greater than, World War II. Building such an effort requires an international cooperation far beyond anything accomplished thus far. Let's do it.
Posted by Donald H. Campbell on 17 Sep 2016

Climate change is a false premise for regulating carbon dioxide emissions. Nature converts CO2 to limestone. Climate change may or may not be occurring, but is is for sure NOT caused by human fossil fuels use. There is no empirical evidence that fossil fuels use affects climate. Likely causes are well documented elsewhere.

Here's why. Fossil fuels emit only 3\% of total CO2 emissions. 95\% comes from rotting vegetation. All the ambient CO2 in the atmosphere is promptly converted in the oceans to limestone and other carbonates. CO2 + CaO => CaCO3. The conversion rate increases with increasing CO2 partial pressure. An equilibrium-seeking mechanism.

99.84\% of all carbon on earth is already sequestered as sediments in the lithosphere. The oceans convert CO2 to carbonate almost as soon as it is emitted. Everything else is sophistry or mass hysteria.

A modern coal power plant emits few pollutants except water vapor and carbon dioxide. Coal remains the lowest cost and most reliable source of electric energy.
Posted by Miner49er on 20 Sep 2016

Folks who support 360.org should actively and energetically support I-732, on the ballot this November in Washington State. This carbon tax swap features a hard-wired gradually increasing tax on carbon, while reducing Washington's regressive sales tax (which disproportionately affects the less-well-off), and even funds a tax rebate for working poor. I-732 does everything 360.org stands for, but still faces opposition - not only from deniers, as you'd expect - but from folks sincerely concerned about climate change. True, we're only one state, but local innovation is how progressive change is made in this country. We may well lose this one, folks, so we need all people of good heart on board. Please, Bill - lend us your support.
Posted by Richard B Harris on 24 Sep 2016

Fossil (and fissile) "fuels" are not forms of Energy.
They are forms of underground Matter, and that
makes all the difference for the world. Of course,
nation states use these materials as military
explosives and their "delivery systems."

While we debate, over many wasted years, the
arbitrary pricing of an immoral societal fraud the
planet is ramping up a response, due to our
corrupt ignorance, that may make a relative few
dollars per ton of carbonic acid gas (CO2) circa
2020 seem like those deck chairs on the Titanic.

Nonetheless, may I say Bill has done incredible
work and I appreciate everything he has spoken
and written.
Posted by Solar Jim on 25 Sep 2016

I deeply appreciate Bill’s outspoken clarity that
a carbon fee, with a dividend, is critically
important for addressing what we face. Those
of us working on this welcome all the support
we can get to educate and enlist voters to
demand this policy be legislated immediately.
Many other groups are joining to endorse this
policy and work for it as well. Still, as
catalytic as this policy will be, Bill is right that
it will not be the ONLY policy that is needed.
Nor, is it the ONLY action that is needed.

The alignment needed in the climate
movement right now needs to be between
those myriad of local fights to stop new fossil
fuel development and transport—what Bill and
others are working on. These on the ground
fights are the front-line of the work right now
and must be supported and done in tandem
with efforts to legislate a fair, transparent,
effective and efficient carbon fee like carbon
fee and dividend. The clock ticks and each
month we lose ground and face a warmer
future and a bigger challenge to reign in ghg
effects on our life support on this planet.
Stopping new efforts cannot be ignored while
we wait for our policy to be enacted.

If we can recognize our natural
complementarity and support each other’s
efforts, we will amplfy the power of our

Posted by Marti Roach on 30 Sep 2016

The effectiveness of carbon fee and dividend depends on the price/ton. A $15/ton ramped up $10 per year is expected (REMI study) to decrease emissions by 50\% in 20 years.

That's a lot! However, any legislation should, IMO, include a safety valve provision, just in case we were too optimistic.

Every 5 years, for example, emissions reductions need to be evaluated. If reductions are too slow, the carbon fee would be increased accordingly.
Posted by Jan Freed on 06 Oct 2016

I believe that a tax on carbon may be a good start
to something. If we can successfully regulate
Carbon we may find other ways to regulate other
emissions. I enjoyed the quote "Carbon should not
flow unpriced into the atmosphere" I think that is a
strong powerful statement.
Posted by Katie Bainbridge on 08 Oct 2016

I think that Carbon has greatly affected the
health of this planet and the organisms living on
the planet. I really admired the quote "Carbon
should not flow unpriced into the atmosphere,
any more than you should be allowed to toss
your garbage in the street." I think this is a
strong statement that stresses the need for
change. We have done things like put a fine on
littering, made punishments for improper waste
disposal, and putting a tax on Carbon, which is
very harmful to this planet, is no different to any
of that. I truly appreciated Bill's article and hope
more people are willing to make a change to the
way we treat our planet. I hope this will inspire
companies and businesses to decrease and be
mindful of the amount carbon emissions going
into the atmosphere.
Posted by Katie Bainbridge on 09 Oct 2016

1.      I believe there does need to be some sort
of regulation regarding carbon and methane. We
need to stop cutting down the trees that give us
oxygen, clean up our pollution and carbon, store
and purify our water, and are used for medicine.
We are putting profit above people and using
nature as a credit card with no spending limit.
We are poisoning the ocean and the plankton
that absorb a lot of carbon are in danger. The
lake in Queensland, Australia are being set on
fire just by using a lighter, proving its high level
of methane. We are calling all this destruction we
are doing to the planet, progress. For those that
say climate change is not a threat, thousands of
homes in Bangladesh were washed away due to
rising sea levels. In Beijing, the fossil fuels are
so bad that students are forced to wear pollution
masks just to go to school. By putting a tax on
carbon emissions, it will start to force people or
corporations to start using clean energy.
Posted by Nicholas Montgomery on 10 Oct 2016

Kudos to Bill for calling out and quoting Charles
Komanoff, one of the essential thinkers and
advocates in the effort to implement sane carbon

One quibble: Bill worries that the need to
increase carbon tax levels over time are likely to
become politically impossible. A carbon tax plan,
he writes, "requires that politicians vote for… a
tax. And indeed that they keep voting to raise it,
year after year."

Not necessarily. There are fixes for this
dilemma: for example, a proposed carbon tax
pending in the New York state legislature comes
along with an up-front transparent and pre-
baked schedule of increases. (A.B. 8372--
proposing to increase the tax gradually from $35
to $185 per ton.) The British Columbia approach
was similar, featuring transparent although the
maximum levels that were lower (if memory
Posted by Citizen Observer on 13 Oct 2016

Bill -- What's your take on Washington's I732? We
need a state to lead the nation in implementing a
carbon tax now, not 2 or 4 years from now.
Posted by Christopher E Greacen on 19 Oct 2016


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bill mckibbenABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org, an international environmental organization. His is the author of more than a dozen books about the environment, most recently Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist. Most recently for Yale Environment 360, McKibben wrote about the future of the environmental movement following the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline.



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