For years, global warming advocates have argued that implementing some sort of carbon tax would substantially reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by the heavily industrialized United States.
The idea, they say, is that a carbon tax would ultimately lead to fewer harmful, climate-changing emissions because of the higher cost associated with creating them in the first place. The tax would provide an additional incentive to conserve energy.
But climate researcher Paul Knappenberger, in a paper published in November, said even if the U.S. parked every plane, train and automobile, and shuttered every factory, the impact on global carbon emissions would amount to little or nothing – making the imposition of a carbon tax useless.
Effects on global climate change ‘negligible’
“Using assumptions based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports, if the U.S. as a whole stopped emitting all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions immediately, the ultimate impact on projected global temperature rise would be a reduction, or a ‘savings,’ of approximately 0.08°C by the year 2050 and 0.17°C by the year 2100 – amounts that are, for all intents and purposes, negligible,” he concluded in his report for the Science and Public Policy Institute.
“The impact of a complete and immediate cessation of all CO2 emissions from the U.S. on projections of future sea level rise would be similarly small – a reduction of the projected sea level rise of only 0.6 cm by 2050 and 1.8 cm (less than one inch) by the year 2100,” the report continued, adding that any reductions in U.S. emissions are now – and would continue to be – subsumed by emissions from other developing countries (China and India come immediately to mind).
So why are some U.S. politicians and the Obama administration still pushing for it? Answer: Because they have spent our nation into oblivion and the carbon tax is nothing more than the latest revenue scheme.
“Massive increases in federal spending over the past 10 years have created a $16 trillion deficit. Now policymakers in Washington are looking for ‘new revenue’ to reduce the deficit,” writes Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, in U.S. News & World Report. “One idea that crops up from time to time is some form of a tax on energy. In the past it was a BTU tax, cap-and-trade, and now a ‘carbon tax.'”
“To put it mildly, a carbon tax is a terrible idea,” he says.
The reason why, he says, is because a carbon tax is a levy placed on every use of oil, coal and natural gas – the three primary elements we use to power our economy. “More than 82 percent of total U.S. energy consumption comes from these sources,” Pyle writes, “and more than 92 percent of our transportation fuel comes from petroleum.” Like most taxes, a carbon tax would be punitive and hit working poor and middle class families the hardest.
Another argument is that a carbon tax would make our tax code much more efficient. These proponents say the income tax system is too inefficient because not everyone even pays income taxes, so exchanging part of the income tax with a carbon tax would close that gap.
Pyle calls that argument “ignorant of the real world economics of a carbon tax.”
Read my lips: No new carbon taxes
“The best literature on the carbon tax argues that a revenue-neutral carbon tax swap actually makes the tax code more inefficient and would hinder economic growth. In the end, a carbon tax has a smaller base than an income tax and is therefore more distortionary,” he writes.
Still, other advocates of a carbon tax say it would not impose a big burden on the economy because it would begin low and remain low. But that’s the same argument used by advocates of an income tax in 1913. When it was first implemented, the top tax rate was seven percent; today it is nearly 40 percent and a number of lawmakers, as well as the president, would love to take it higher.
No matter what your position is on the issue of global warming, it seems clear that a carbon tax won’t do anything to reduce emissions, but will instead impose more costs on the nation’s already embattled energy sector, as well as those in our society who are least able to absorb them.
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