When first elected, President Obama had a long history of rhetorical commitment to address climate change, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at least partially on this basis. During his first term, as global climate and ecosystems noticeably worsened, the president's administration never exerted much political capital to reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, concern over jobs and the economy led to plans to significantly expand fossil fuel production and consumption, solidifying a new generation of fossil fuel addiction and resulting climate disruption.
The Obama administration has continued America's obstruction of global climate negotiations by backing off from any firm commitments for equitable emission cuts. During the recent presidential election, many Americans were shocked by the candidates' silence on climate change policy, a willful abdication of leadership on abrupt climate change, which was revealed as criminally negligent by Hurricane Sandy's climate change enhanced wind, rain, and storm surge. Instead of the dramatic emissions cuts which must begin immediately to minimize abrupt climate change, yesterday reelected President Obama indicated he only wants a national conversation on the topic. This failure of leadership - doing nothing during a national ecological emergency, proposing a conversation when action is needed, policy concessions that are too little and too late and don't reduce emissions - can only be described as climate appeasement.
A carbon tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) would allow carbon emissions to be efficiently and equitably reduced. The prices of fossil fuels don’t reflect their true costs of production, transportation, and burning. A permanent and increasing U.S. carbon tax will reduce the emissions that are driving global warming and generate revenue to help close looming budget gaps, which provides a large and unique constituency for the wise policy. An initial carbon tax equating to 10 cents a gallon on gasoline, but applied to all U.S. fossil fuel burning, would bring in roughly $55 billion a year in revenue, and could continue to be similarly scaled-up. A carbon tax is the most economically efficient means to convey crucial price signals that spur carbon-reducing investment. Carbon taxes can be phased in so businesses and households have time to adapt, and can be structured to be revenue-neutral, and to soften the impacts of added costs by distributing tax revenues to households (“dividends”) or reducing other taxes (“tax-shifting”). Support for a carbon tax is growing steadily, while it is acknowledged that proposals for cap-and-trade with offsets cannot deliver the same needed emissions reductions as efficiently or quickly. Global ecological sustainability requires immediate and dramatic carbon emission cuts, and a carbon tax is the best way to start now.
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