This is an excerpt from The Atlantic’s climate newsletter, The Weekly Planet. Subscribe today.

The climate scientist Ken Caldeira recently tweeted a joke meant to charm carbon-tax advocates. “If we don’t want people to drink so much alcohol, rather than taxing alcohol, we can subsidize everything that is not alcohol,” he wrote. His point, if I may ruin the punch line, is that the United States’ approach to combating climate change is kind of silly. It relies far more on subsidizing renewables and other zero-carbon sources than on penalizing fossil fuels, which is what we really care about in the first place. We should just tax carbon pollution.

I think this comparison—between carbon taxes and alcohol taxes—is a surprisingly instructive one. That’s because, to start, alcohol taxes work. Fifty years of studies show that as the price of alcohol increases, the societal problems associated with alcohol decrease.

But it’s also instructive because, well, consider the history of alcohol taxes. The first time that Congress tried raising taxes on alcohol, Americans staged a violent insurrection that had to be forcibly subdued by, literally, George Washington. When carbon-tax advocates point to the history of alcohol taxes, I do …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Science


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