After such a cold winter in the Northeast, it’s tempting to wonder if global warming is actually real. It may seem as if the dire predictions were untrue and we can go about business as usual. Unfortunately, while we had a frigid winter in the Finger Lakes, the planet as a whole once again suffered unprecedented heating, the eighth warmest February on record, according to the U.S. National Climatic Data Center.

The world’s leading scientists agree that the main culprit is the heat trapped by excess carbon dioxide and methane, caused by carbon-based fossil fuels. And now, we have a detailed account of climate change impacts, some of which are already upon us. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released a report on the impacts of a “do nothing” scenario. The impacts of continuing to heat the planet include:

Farmers not able to grow enough food.

Increase in severe storms, droughts, floods and wildfires.

Sea-level rise that could displace hundreds of millions of people.

Entrenched poverty for the world’s poorest.

Destabilization of nations, leading to war.

To avoid worst-case scenarios, climate experts report that we must act now to contain the heating increase to 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees Celsius). Our current trajectory is at least 7 degrees F -- way beyond our ability to manage or adapt. So the real cost of burning fossil fuels, then, is much higher than is reflected in their current price.

We have seen some increase in use of wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies. Yet, while a very good start, it is not enough. With fossil fuels remaining artificially cheaper than renewables, business as usual seems inevitable. For many, this has meant sinking into despair over each new article on global warming.

However, there is an idea emerging among a broad cross-section of citizens, which if put into action would create the needed shift. Simple economics dictates that the market will gravitate toward the lowest cost. To fix this problem, there’s a simple solution: Tax carbon at the point of production or importation. The fee, about $15 per ton of coal, gas, or oil, could be increased gradually so as to avoid shocks while advancing conservation and renewable energy development.

Most people’s immediate reaction is probably to say “No way!” to any new tax. Hold on for a moment while I give you the second half of the solution: Take the revenue from that carbon tax and refund it to all households.

Individuals would then have the extra income to offset additional energy costs arising from the tax. Done this way, a carbon tax/rebate would avoid economic hardship, and allow market forces to create a smarter, less destructive energy future.

By John Finn, P.E.

John Finn is a licensed professional engineer and volunteer with the local chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby. Learn more online at www.citizensclimatelobby.org

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(3) comments

Franklins Ghost

Skee:

The fact that the Church controlled science in its day in order to eliminate any findings that would run contrary to religious doctrine is so well known that I didn't feel it needed to be mentioned.

You seem more than willing to blame every medical and environmental ill on "climate change".

The claimed near-unanimity of opinion ought to have liberals questioning the climate change claims more than they do, especially given the historical example given above of the Church controlling the science of the day. But, like the issue of polling districts in multiple places who voted 100-110% of registered voters for Obama in the last election or the liberal mantra of "free speech only as long as I agree with the speech" as long as the outcome suits your desired goal or message, you wont rock the boat.

I feel no need to lessen my carbon footprint if in fact my actions ultimately have little impact on actual climate conditions.

I believe that the whole climate debate these days is about money; the Third World wants to use it as an excuse to demand money from the West, and liberals like you want to use the excuse of climate change to destroy our modern Western standard of living.

Good to see that you are still in the area. I still mourn the loss of a local forum in which issues of the day can be freely discussed and debated. The IT forums hardly count as such.....

Skeexix

It's nice to see that Franklin's Ghost hasn't lost his stomach for playing fast and loose with the "facts". To flesh things out for those Jethro Bodine types, let's skip right past the part where it wasn't the world's (note the apostrophe) scientists who were "Squashing dissenting views", but the liberal Church. Today's (again, take note) scientist indeed spend a fair amount of time pointing out the exponential increase in cases of asthma, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, cancer, etc. If anything is fleecing Frank's wallet, it's the cost exacted on the economy (that's everybody, Frank) by these diseases. If Frank is, for example, a tobacco user then at least he is being consistent in that he doesn't care any more about his own well-being than he does the rest of humanity. The rest of us would be wise to make every effort to keep our carbon footprint to a minimum.

Franklins Ghost

When I was a kid the "leading scientists" were freaking out about global cooling. A few centuries ago the worlds leading scientists were convinced that the Earth was the center of the Universe and squashed dissenting views. Todays scientists post on a weekly basis that one or another common thing in our society will kill us. Thanks, but as far as I am concerned, this is a huge scam foisted on us by liberals and anti-American types who want to fleece our wallets.

(Edited by staff.)