Cap That Carbon

Pilgrim buckles and bubble tunics aren’t the only trends this season. On Capitol Hill, all the cool kids, er, legislators, are sponsoring bills to deal with climate change.

As an article in today’s New York Times points out, those six bills represent a sea change in the debate: The question is no longer if global warming exists, but what we’re going to do about it.

But not just any legislation will do, as the article points out.

But the truth is that some of the ideas now on the table would do very little to change the situation. And a feckless new law would be worse than nothing at all right now.

So what’s the answer?

The only reliable way to reduce carbon emissions is to make them more expensive. When you hear somebody talk first about doing this and only then about the wonderful innovations that will follow — and they will follow — you know that person is serious.

Putting a price on carbon emissions is not rocket science, but it needs to be done right. It’ll take the government putting a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions (for the entire economy—without loopholes), issuing trade permits, and letting the marketplace do its thing. A cap-and-trade system will exert pressure on companies to reduce emissions, but allow flexibility in the process.

Just a spoonful of sugar…


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Issue 25

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