A Sweltering Planet’s Agenda: Washington Post Editorial Board Calls For Carbon Tax

Okay, a carbon tax is a pretty obvious choice if one cares at all about science, humanity, and the national debt. Still, it’s nice to see even a centrist group like the Washington Post editorial board endorse it.

In a piece headlined, “A sweltering planet’s agenda,” they explain that 2012 “offers a vision of what will happen more often on a planet that is heating — slowly and fitfully, not every year warmer than the last, but inexorably.” They note that lack of absolute certainty as to just how bad global warming will be is no excuse for inaction. Quite the reverse:

That’s an argument not for doing nothing but for managing the risks, spending now to avoid the likelihood of much greater costs later, as any good business would do in the face of certain threats of uncertain magnitude.

The smartest hedge would be a national carbon tax. It would marshal the market’s power to wring carbon out of the economy, putting decisions about the direction of energy and manufacturing in the hands of consumers and businesses that meet their demands, not Congress and interest groups that lobby lawmakers. When people must pay something for their pollution, they pollute less and invest in cleaner alternatives. A carbon tax would provide more certainty to industry and investors who currently can only guess at what climate policy will look like year to year.


But, given the dim debate on global warming in Congress, another consequence of a carbon tax might be more appealing to policymakers: revenue. Resources for the Future estimates that a tax set at $25 per ton of carbon dioxide would raise $125 billion annually — more than would be saved by eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction. Even if much of that were rebated to ensure that low-income households weren’t unduly hurt — the right policy — a sizable chunk would be left to shrink the deficit or ease the major tax reform that Washington’s leaders have been promising.

Implementing a national carbon tax would be only one step toward addressing climate change, a problem that must ultimately be dealt with globally. But it would be a big one.

Perhaps the Post should have pointed out just why there is a “dim debate” on global warming in Congress, as they have in the past — see WashPost stunner [4/18/11]: “The GOPs climate-change denial may be its most harmful delusion.” Still, it’s worth remembering that this is a paper that has worked hard to appeal to conservatives by publishing the nonsense of deniers and confusionists:

In case you were wondering just who is the Washington Post’s editorial board and how do they decide to write editorials, they provide the answer here:

Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the editorial board. The board includes: Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt; Deputy Editorial Page Editor Jackson Diehl; Jo-Ann Armao , who specializes in education and District affairs; Jonathan Capehart, who focuses on national politics; Lee Hockstader, who writes about political and other issues affecting Virginia and Maryland; Charles Lane, who concentrates on economic policy, trade and globalization; Stephen Stromberg, who specializes in energy, the environment, public health and other federal policy; and editorial cartoonist Tom Toles. Op-ed editor Autumn Brewington, opinions editor for digital Marisa Bellack and letters editor Michael Larabee also take part in board discussions. The board highlights issues it thinks are important and responds to news events, mindful of stands it has taken in previous editorials and principles that have animated Post editorial boards over time. Articles in the news pages sometimes prompt ideas for editorials, but every editorial is based on original reporting. News reporters and editors never contribute to editorial board discussions, and editorial board members don’t have any role in news coverage.

I’m guessing the main voice of climate sanity on the Board is the brilliant Tom Toles — see Toles’ “last rant about the climate.”