A Canadian carbon tax won’t save the world

Those are great sentiments, but what “we” as Canadians do doesn’t mean a darn thing in the grand scheme. With an estimated 1.6 percent of global emissions, we could discontinue all economic activity and huddle together in igloos and it wouldn’t make a measurable difference in worldwide emissions.

As silly as it sounds, some people seem to believe that the “noble” gesture of a carbon tax will convince the climate gods to spare Canada, and we’ll no longer have any droughts, floods or heat waves. This belief system must hearken back to ancient times when human sacrifices were conducted to placate various gods.

With the increasing alarmist rhetoric, every weather event is now blamed on climate change. When crop yields are reduced by drought in some regions, it’s climate change. When harvest weather turns cold and damp, that too is climate change. The weather was never variable before we had climate change, don’t you know.

Even skeptics about the cause, rate and overall effect of climate change tend to support actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On that, there’s general agreement. But carbon taxes are not the only way and definitely not the best way to accomplish reductions.

The theory sounds good. A tax on carbon will raise the price of fossil fuels and cause consumption to drop. Presto, you’ve reduced carbon emissions. Tax me. I’m Canadian.

In practice, it isn’t that simple. Over recent years, we’ve seen the price of gasoline range widely. Does consumption really change that much when the price is $1.40 a litre versus $1.15?

And what can farmers do to adjust? Field operations require diesel fuel. Sure, if fertilizer prices escalate because of a carbon tax, economics will dictate that less is used, but that will mean a corresponding decrease in production. How is that a good thing for the hungry consumers of the world?

Carbon tax defenders say you can distribute the money back to taxpayers and industry so that it’s revenue neutral and still has the desired effect. Good luck with that. Maybe it would just be better to find other ways to reduce emissions.

Yes, there is still a cost to the economy from requiring large emitters to cut back, just as there’s a cost to promoting green energy sources such as wind and solar. But these are still more manageable approaches than a carbon tax.

Since we can’t single-handedly make a dent in worldwide carbon emissions, wouldn’t it be prudent to invest more resources in mitigating the effects of climate change? Of course, part of the problem is that the climate change scientists who claim to know with absolute certainty how much the Earth will warm in the next 10 and 20 years are less certain about the climate effect in particular regions.

Some postulate that there will be more droughts as well as more extreme events such as flooding. If that’s the case, investing in more water reservoirs and irrigation infrastructure would seem wise.

Interestingly, many of the individuals beating the climate change drum are the same folks who oppose genetically modified crops, an important tool in adapting to a changing climate. These are also the same people who reject any consideration of nuclear energy.

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