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Carbon tax key to enjoying Canadian seasons
Canadian winters as we know them, “with skating, skiing, warm coats and hot chocolate,” would be ruined by an NDP carbon tax, Conservative MP Kyle Seeback said recently. But he’s wrong. In fact, the carbon tax might be just what we need to combat climate change and ensure future generations can experience the fun of all the Canadian seasons.
Even with popular consensus that climate change is a significant issue, political gridlock at the federal level seriously affects our ability to act. It’s time that our policies and laws reflect what Canadians value and their concern for the future options of successive generations. We already have enough information through research and greenhouse gas emission inventories to identify what contributes to climate change. Only if we start pricing the cost of greenhouse gas emissions in our economy will we see any change.
All federal political parties in Canada must show collective leadership and vote for the immediate introduction of carbon taxes. In a constitutional democracy, values should be expressed through the laws. Carbon taxes will generate a long overdue national conversation about our critical environmental resources, and enshrine values that are essential for sustainable community development.
According to a recent study by the Berkeley Earth Land Project, land surface temperature has increased in the last 50 years by as much as 0.9 C, and this increase is almost entirely human-made. Governments and scientists across the world agree with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s assessment that a temperature above 2C and above could be catastrophic. James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute just published an analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures. His data reveals that the extremely hot summer we have just experienced, in addition to the European and Russian heat waves and the droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year are caused by climate change.
We already have enough information to identify what contributes to climate change, and it is only concrete action that will allow us to change our ways. Responsible governance is required to shift to cleaner industries that will allow Canada, and the world, to avert certain catastrophe. Canada needs to commit to a powerful mix of economic, legal and social actions for our country’s next five years. Quebec and British Columbia have already introduced carbon taxes in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In British Columbia, sales of fossil fuels have dropped by over 15 per cent since the carbon tax’s inception in 2008, without adversely affecting the province’s economy as measured by GDP. In addition, the carbon tax has been designed to be revenue neutral (no net tax increase), which ultimately has resulted in a net benefit to taxpayers, both individuals and businesses, through personal and corporate tax reductions.
What makes these carbon taxes so effective? The carbon tax system shows that we can successfully tax the things that truly place costs on the “bads.” By implementing such innovative policies, we send an economy-wide signal that Canadians are committed to what’s important for society and the environment. We help correct the fundamental market failure to provide information about the real costs of environmental degradation.
Considering carbon taxes capture the real costs of climate change, this policy tool could become a vital component of national communications and education campaigns aimed at all Canadians to increase literacy about the causes of climate change. We already know there is a strong link between public ecological literacy and the decision-making of senior officials.
Attitudes about smoking shifted dramatically in just 20 years. We could do the same thing with climate change by implementing carbon taxes. Then we can continue to enjoy our Canadian winter sports for many years to come.
Ann Dale is Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Community Development at Royal Roads University.