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Carbon tax addresses climate change issue

Nicole Lasee, Entertainment Editor
May 8, 2013
Filed under Opinion

As we approach another hot summer, rumors of climate change filter into our thoughts. We have been warned about our negative effects on the planet since Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” was brought to the forefront of the big screen. Our damages are becoming more and more prevalent and are becoming obvious in nature. Many skeptics have been ignoring these warnings, writing it off to the natural progression of things.

Standing for a change in early March, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. released a new plan to address climate change. The proposal details a tax on carbon emissions to discourage pollution. Other representatives who have their own proposals circulating joined Waxman.

The proposal imposes a fee for power plants, factories, refineries and other major pollution sources based on its greenhouse gas emissions. This idea has been around the Capitol for years, but has never gained momentum.

When people hear the word tax, the get defensive immediately. But this tax is on the biggest of the polluters, not the individual. This tax is not a radical idea, but rather a starting point for change.

The projected per-ton prices for carbon pollution have been suggest to be $15 to $30 with an annual increase of 2 to 8 percent to ensure levels continue to decline.

To further the incentive, most of the revenue generated from the tax would be pumped back to the public through utility rebates. The revenue could also be used to reduce national budget or investments in clean-energy projects.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the global average temperature has increased by more than 1.3 degrees during the last century. In the Arctic, the increase is almost double. These changes in climate are attributed to the buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. The EPA website also noted: changing participation patterns, increased ocean temperatures, increased sea level and acidity and melting of glaciers and sea ice.

Some skeptics point to the natural causes of greenhouse gas, including respiration and volcanic eruptions. However, these elements are not making unruly developments like our own pollution.

“Putting a price on carbon could help solve two of the nation’s biggest challenges: preventing climate change and reducing the budget deficit,” Waxman said in a news release. “There have been carbon tax proposals made by others. What’s unique about this one is its novel design. We are seeking to craft a system in which each agency does what they are good at and that minimizes compliance burdens and administrative costs. Utilities, oil companies and other major sources are already reporting their emissions to EPA We build off of this existing program.”

The bill was strongly supported by President Obama, but never got a hearing and fell to the wayside.

In Obama’s second Inaugural Address and his recent State of the Union Address, Obama renewed the discussion. He cited record temperatures and destructive storms in connection with concentrations of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases.

Currently, the president has not ruled out proposing a carbon tax, but it has not made much advancement in congress.

By formally backing the carbon tax, the movement would get more momentum. Seeking out representatives for the tax and following its movements at the Capitol could help the cause. Something needs to be done to help decrease emissions before we have bypassed the point of prevention.

Personally, I think that the tax should go as far as applying to the cars we drive. When purchasing a vehicle, there should be a tax if the car does not meet energy efficiency requirements. Insurance companies already offer discount incentives if the vehicle meets certain green standards, but why not start at the source? Options are available to assist in the change, but people are not likely to make them unless the price is right.

According to NASA’s Global Climate Change website, carbon dioxide has increased 395 parts per million, the sea level has increased 3.18 mm per year, global temperatures have increased 1.5 degrees each year since 1880 and the artic sea ice has decreased 12 percent per decade.

Furthermore, ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica and tropical mountain glaciers show the Earth’s orbit and greenhouse gas levels affect the climate.

The meteorological society conducted a State of the Climate survey and found that the 20 warmest years have occurred since 1981 and the 10 warmest years occurred during the past 12 years.

At a more local level, we have been seeing record-high temperature events in the U.S. on the rise, whereas record-low temperature events have been receding. Weather patterns, intense storms and unusual locations for these storms have also been on the rise.

As a people, we need to each be making lifestyle changes to accommodate for our destruction. At the corporate level, we need to be making larger changes to make up for the staggering emissions coming from industrial activity. A carbon tax is the start to the wave of change and hopefully the incentive needed to curb our detrimental effects on the environment.