Nature: Do the carbon tax, America!

Nature, the journal, has come out in favor of the US congress acting on a Carbon Tax now.

As looming tax increases and budget cuts threaten to plunge the US economy back into recession, Congress should take a hard look at introducing a carbon tax as an important part of the solution.

This week, a reinvigorated Barack Obama returned to the White House knowing that he was poised on the edge of a fiscal cliff. Rather than relishing his victory last week, Obama must immediately set about crafting a compromise on deficit reduction with congressional leaders. The stakes could hardly be higher — for science, for US citizens and, indeed, for the world. In the event of failure, a budgetary time-bomb of tax increases and sweeping budget cuts will detonate on 2 January. As well as resulting in indiscriminate cuts to funds for scientific research and many other areas, it could knock the United States back into recession and deliver yet another blow to an already fragile global economy.

Just consider the possibilities. To put a levy on carbon would raise revenues that could be used to offset lower tax rates for individuals and businesses. This is what conservatives say they want to do. It would put more income — and thus choice — in the hands of consumers. Economists like the idea for more fundamental reasons. Generally, it is best to tax things that one wishes to discourage (such as smoking) rather than those that should be encouraged (such as working). Environmentalists like the idea of a carbon tax because it could generate some much-needed revenue for clean-energy research and development while reducing carbon emissions.

The editorial is here. I think it is not behind a paywall.

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3 thoughts on “Nature: Do the carbon tax, America!

  1. Please explain what is the “budgetory time-bomb of tax increases.” Nature magazine’s editors,, as usual think that it giving the appearance of “neutrality” in the political arena–to not offend anyone–is the way to convince and move forward. There is a big difference between taxing the poor and working class and taxing the rich and super rich.

  2. Gary Johnson made the point in the last third party debate that “whatever we tax we get less of”.

    He claimed to believe in the consensus on global warming, but then also claimed that CO2 has been going down because capitalism is already fixing the problem….

  3. @Theo: The “budgetary time-bomb” to which they refer is what most commentators have been calling the “fiscal cliff” (though some have been backing off lately, calling it a “fiscal slope” instead). The problem is not so much the tax increases as the mandatory budget cuts that would go into effect. Those budget cuts would primarily affect the poor and middle class.

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