What do you think of this environmental proposal, GW?
There are many things companies do that are negative externalities, but that don't by themselves do anything completely irreversible. Even AGW activists agree that greenhouse gas emissions are something that Earth's systems can tolerate a certain amount of, but the same goes for most forms of pollution--even acutely toxic ones, such as mercury, as long as emissions levels aren't too high. Likewise for other environmental damage--clear-cutting, driving in sensitive areas, and so on.
The trick is how to keep emissions and other activities in check, and/or clean up any "messes". Preferably without having to micromanage human behavior unduly.
Rather than mandatory, universal limits for certain emissions types (et al), we could assess and calculate *all* of the environmental and human damage from a given unit of emissions--for example, from a single pound of mercury, or a single ton of CO2--assuming expected total emissions levels. Include the cost of remediation/restoration, if it is possible, as well as of any probable health effects, property damage, et al from any remaining damage. Include damage to ecosystem services such as water purification, likely as the cost of replacing those services with artificial substitutes. Be generous, though not absurdly so, in calculating these costs. Tack on a bit more, maybe 10%, for administration. Recalculate every 5-10 years, to reflect changes in technology, new understanding of risks, et cetera. If location is relevant (eg ...
near vs not near aquifers), alter fees to reflect this.
Replace all laws explicitly prohibiting or limiting specific emissions types (other than acute dangers to human life or the like) with the fees calculated above. Instead of, for example, requiring that mercury emissions be kept below a certain level, simply charge emitters the calculated amount for every pound of mercury they emit. Use the funds to do any possible remediation, as well as to pay for any increased health costs, reparations
for any property damage, etc. Do much the same for things like laws against logging in public lands (barring endangered species or specific scenic or otherwise "functional" areas). For damages from cars and other relatively diffuse environmental damages, assess the fee at the "top", divided between the manufacturer or importer, and the gas sellers (or equivalents), based on predicted normal use. For pollution from imported goods, the fee or part of it can be included as a tariff, if/to the...
extent that the pollution in question is global rather than local.
If anyone tries to evade the fees and is discovered, charge them a multiple of the normal fee (depending on how likely they are to reoffend, if they probably evaded the fees without discovery in the past, and so on) as a fine. Don't allow them to duck it through bankruptcy, someone is getting arrested and/or having all their future wages garnished or something. (likewise for the fees, though with more lenience)
manufacturers a clear, strong signal of how bad a negative externality is, and makes them pay for it, without micro-managing them. If a business can't be profitable when paying the pollution fee, it can either figure out ways to pollute less, or go out of business. But, for example, instead of requiring a coal plant that emits too much to take a specific action, you increase the costs. The owner of the plant can decide whether to upgrade, close and replace it, or simply pay the fee for their
emissions. And you don't end up with, for example, the trap of older plants that want to make small upgrades reluctant to make them, because those changes would remove their "grandfathering" and require them to be brought all the way up to code.
What are everyone's thoughts about this proposal? Would you vote for it? Would you change it in any way? Any other thoughts?
(I *swear* they used to give us more room...)
- Hey DookLv 77 years agoFavorite Answer
The basic idea behind your suggestions is an old one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigovian_tax advocated often (and adopted less often) in order to better cope with the "free-rider" and "tragedy of the commons" problems at the heart of modern industrial pollution. It has been a standard part of introductory college economics courses for many decades.
The oldest proposal along such lines related to global warming (that I know of at least) dates back over thirty years: William Nordhaus, "How Fast Should We Graze the Global Commons?", American Economic Review (1982), available here http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1802336?uid=... or in pre-publication form here: : http://ideas.repec.org/p/cwl/cwldpp/615.html (in other words LONG before most of today's anti-science crowd had even heard of global warming, or the "greenhouse effect" as it was called then). See also http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/11/us/brothers-work...
In actual practice, such approaches have worked better locally or regionally than globally. For it to work well applied to climate change, China and the USA would have to come to an agreement, and they have clashing interests (apart from the more immediate stumbling block, that the US Congress is controlled by politicians who have found it more expedient, politically and financially, to pander to lies about science than to formulate and support sensible policies based on the findings of science).
U.S. National Academy of Sciences, 2010:
“Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.”
“Choices made now about carbon dioxide emissions reductions will affect climate change impacts experienced not just over the next few decades but also in coming centuries and millennia…Because CO2 in the atmosphere is long lived, it can effectively lock the Earth and future generations into a range of impacts, some of which could become very severe.”
“The Academy membership is composed of approximately 2,100 members and 380 foreign associates, of whom nearly 200 have won Nobel Prizes. Members and foreign associates of the Academy are elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research; election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer.”Source(s): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchants_of_Doubt (Newsw.) http://www.sharonlbegley.com/global-warming-denier... http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005... http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-mckibben/the-gr... http://jcmooreonline.com/2013/01/31/engineering-cl... http://www.desmogblog.com/global-warming-denier-da...
- Anonymous7 years ago
More laws to litigate?
Have you seen a law library lately?
We can draw up an infinite # of laws and pass them, but all that does is create the opportunity for more and more lawyers to litigate them.
In the U.S. it only takes a majority vote to pass a law and 2/3rds vote to repeal one.