(opinion teaser)

Global carbon fee – it’s the only way

Record-breaking heat with forest fires last summer. Record-breaking rainfall with floods and landslides this fall. There can’t be very many climate-change deniers left in British Columbia.

We’ve known since the 19th century that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. We’ve known since the late 1980s that the Earth’s atmosphere is warming. Why haven’t we been able to do anything about it?

Consider a farmer I met in Saskatchewan a few years ago. He had four brand new John Deere combine harvesters parked in his front yard. Today they would cost close to $500,000 each. Add to that the farmer’s tractors, trucks and so on and he must have had several million dollars tied up in machinery that uses fossil fuels.

Now imagine an environmentalist telling him that he is going to have to reduce his use of fossil fuels by half over the next 10 years and eliminate it almost entirely by 2050. Oh, and he’s also going to have to reduce his use of nitrogen fertilizers, and his use of pesticides, plus he’s going to have to produce more food (to feed a growing population).

Famers are pretty resilient people which means those extra costs wouldn’t be the real problem. After all, unexpected extra costs are what farming is all about.

The real problem for the Saskatchewan farmer would be wondering how he could compete in the worldwide market for grains if farmers in the other grain-growing areas of the world aren’t facing the same extra costs.

Global problems require global solutions. It sounds like just a slogan but, in fact, there’s a lot of truth to it.

For the past few years (decades, in fact), I’ve been promoting a climate solution called a global carbon fee-and-dividend petition.

Carbon fee-and-dividend means charging a fee on fossil fuels, similar to a carbon tax. Unlike a tax, however, the money collected would not go into general government revenue but instead would be distributed to everyone as equal dividends, similar to a universal basic income.

Canada’s backstop carbon pricing system, in which the federal government implements a carbon tax in those provinces without an adequate price on carbon, is essentially the same as carbon fee-and-dividend as 90 per cent of the money collected is rebated to households.

Canada is heading in the right direction. However, if you’re not talking about pricing carbon at the global level, you’re not really talking about controlling climate change.

A global fossil fuel fee starting at $30/tonne CO2 would raise about $1 trillion per year. That would be enough to give every adult human being on the planet a dividend of $200 per year – essentially doubling the incomes of many millions of people.

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