Carbon price: The price for avoided or released carbon dioxide (CO2) or CO2-equivalent emissions. This may refer to the rate of a carbon tax or the price of emission permits. In many models that are used to assess the economic costs of mitigation, carbon prices are used as a proxy to represent the level of effort in mitigation policies. [IPCC Fifth Assessment Report]
We all learn in science class that carbon is one of the building blocks of life. So what does it mean when climate activists call for a price on carbon? And why do we need one?
Let's start with the basics. Around the world, fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal still power many of the world's industries and economies. When we burn fossil fuels, we release carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. While greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide play an important role in regulating the Earth's climate system, excessively high concentrations of atmospheric carbon—what we call "carbon pollution"—have dangerous consequences.
To put it another way, carbon pollution is the number one contributor to climate change. Scientists have linked carbon pollution with rising global temperatures, stronger and longer droughts, shifts in rain and snow patterns, more destructive and frequent storms, shrinking land and sea ice, increased ocean acidity, warmer oceans, and rising sea levels. And that's just for starters.
Many of these effects have already begun. This year is on track to become the hottest on record globally—and this is the third year in a row this has happened. And if we're keeping score, that would mean that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record globally have come since the beginning of the twenty-first century. In 2015, wildfires burned more than 10 million acres of land in the U.S. (another new record), with most projections pointing to even more U.S. wildfires in the future. "Nuisance flooding" (flooding that overwhelms or damages public infrastructure) has increased on all three U.S. coasts between 300 and 925 percent since the 1960s.
You don't have to look far to see how these and other consequences of climate change can get expensive. California's recent historic drought is estimated to have cost the state $2.74 billion in 2015 and resulted in the loss of more than 21,000 jobs.
And guess who ends up paying these costs? We all do, through higher taxes, medical bills and insurance rates.
And the companies responsible for the carbon pollution behind all this? They're sitting high on the list of the world's most profitable firms, while the rest of us are stuck paying the costs. Hardly seems fair, does it? Which is why it's time to put a price on carbon.
We know that the public costs of burning fossil fuels are enormous, but the market prices of carbon-intensive products and services don't reflect that reality. Government subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and lack of accountability for carbon pollution allow market prices for these products to stay artificially low, effectively telling polluters that they are free to use the atmosphere like an open sewer, emitting unlimited carbon pollution without any consequences.
Policies that put a price on carbon emissions aim to re-adjust the market to better reflect the true cost of carbon. Such policies, like carbon taxes or cap-and-trade programs, have already been adopted in a number of countries around the globe.
In the U.S., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently specifically backed a federal policy tool for counting the big-picture costs of climate change known as the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC). This was the first time a U.S. court has considered the legality of carbon accounting. By upholding the SCC, the court empowered the government to keep considering climate change in cost-benefit analyses when making federal regulations. The SCC is not a true price on carbon, but it's a good first step.
Which raises the question: Why is a price on carbon one of the most cost-effective and market-friendly solutions to climate change? When a price on carbon forces companies to start paying the real economic and environmental costs of fossil fuels, they naturally look for cheaper options like solar and wind. More investment then goes into clean energy and a virtuous cycle begins, with lower costs attracting more business and investment, driving prices down even further. Which helps attract more business and investment. And on and on.
Here's How You Can Help
So, what can you do about carbon pollution? Here are three ways you can support the U.S. and other nations in marching forward on the path to a clean energy economy:
1. Tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) you support clean energy. Submit a comment showing your support for the EPA's Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP), which helps states reduce carbon pollution by encouraging early investments in renewable energy.
2. Share this article you just read and raise awareness about carbon pricing in your social network. Now that you understand why we need a price on carbon, share your knowledge and help build the public support to make it a reality.
3. Already done with #1 and #2? Take the next step and become a Climate Reality Leader. Learn directly from former U.S. Vice President Al Gore about climate science and how to advocate for solutions. Here's how.
People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>