Controversy around whether a carbon tax should be introduced in the United States has begun to heat up after the comprehensive climate legislation was introduced in the Senate, which included, among other things, a carbon tax. Perhaps somewhat predictably, industries who base their profitability on the ability to use our atmosphere as a free sink for their pollution are objecting to such a measure, citing how it will affect their bottom line.
Hearing their arguments I couldn’t help but think back to the arguments against ending slavery, which opposed abolishment claiming that it would cripple agricultural industries whose profitability was based on the exploitation of slaves. The parallels are remarkable except the slave in this case is the atmosphere and our future is at stake.
Meanwhile, as the U.S. squabbles again over climate action, both South Africa and China have recently agreed to join the growing ranks of countries who are taxing carbon. Both are developing countries with much higher poverty levels, smaller GDPs, smaller historic emissions and far fewer emissions per capita, and yet they realize that they can no longer give free rein to polluters and are instead introducing such measures to enact a more just and sustainable paradigm of growth. How long will the world continue to wait for the U.S. to do likewise?