Lawrence Solomon: Carbon bounties (not taxes) could save us from the next Little Ice Age

(January 5, 2018) With scientists increasingly predicting a long period of global cooling, we may need incentives to put additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

This article, by Lawrence Solomon, was first published by the National Post

With scientists increasingly pondering, and predicting, a long-lived period of global cooling, the debate may soon shift to whether we should be offering a bounty of $50, $100 or $200 a tonne to those willing to put additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Aaron Lynett/The Canadian Press.

A carbon tax has a solid theoretical basis in economics, which is why a great many economists favour it to address global warming. If you want more of something, they explain, provide incentives. If you want less of something — in this case carbon dioxide — tax it. As economists like to say, incentives matter.

Honest, intellectually rigorous economists — I’m excluding those who tout carbon taxes to promote an ideological global warming agenda — may soon need to put their climate models through new paces, however. To date, they’ve debated the economic cost of damage resulting from carbon dioxide emissions and the size of the tax needed to persuade individuals and industry to curb their emissions — should it be $50 a tonne, or $100 or $200 a tonne? With scientists increasingly pondering, and predicting, a long-lived period of global cooling, the debate may soon shift to whether we should be offering a bounty of $50, $100 or $200 a tonne to those willing to put additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The bounties could come in the form of subsidies to the tar sands and coal mining industries, to encourage the production needed to fossil-fuel factories and steel mills

In past little ice ages — “they keep repeating every 350-400 years because the Sun goes through this minimum activity,” Zharkova explains — crops failed and people suffered. She believes global warming may prevent the worst of a new Little Ice Age from occurring and that it may even bring a silver lining, at least temporarily. “I hope global warming will be overridden by this effect, giving humankind and the Earth 30 years” to find solutions, she said.

Other scientists, such as Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of space research at the Russian Academy of Science’s Pulkovo Observatory in St. Petersburg and the author of the 2016 study, “The New Little Ice Age Has Started,” believes the Little Ice Age will last longer — about 100 years. The reliability of Abdussamatov’s model — informed by Earth’s 18 earlier little ice ages over the past 7,500 years, six of them in the last thousand years — have been repeatedly affirmed by real events, such as irradiance measurements from the Sun. The robustness of Abdussamatov’s model allowed him to predict in 2003 the advent of a new ice age by 2015. The models of all the scientists predicting warming, in contrast, have been proven by real events to be abject failures.

Economists who today propose a carbon tax to prevent global warming do so in the belief that the science on global warming is settled, and that a tax is required to mitigate the damage from carbon dioxide emissions. But if the science on global warming gets settled differently — with a new consensus that we face a protracted period of global cooling — these economists would want to change the incentives to encourage the carbon dioxide emissions believed needed to offset harm.

The bounties could come in the form of subsidies to the tar sands and coal mining industries, to pipelines and fracking operations, to encourage the production needed to fossil-fuel the factories and steel mills of tomorrow. Punitive taxes at the gasoline pump would be dropped, as would mileage standards on cars. Rather than the “cash for clunkers” programs of old, governments might incent the scrapping of fuel-efficient compact cars while subsidizing the purchase of SUVs. Rather than banning the incandescent light bulb, governments on the advice of economists might ban compact fluorescents.

Simultaneously, these economists would want to eliminate the many perversely-given bounties to conservation programs, solar and wind power, nuclear reactors and Tesla vehicles.

If such measures and others are required to temper the blows of brutal weather — as severe or more than that we’re now experiencing — the public would welcome whatever warming might come of pumping additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. For their part, economists — those intellectually rigorous — could take grim satisfaction for having applied their knowledge to protecting the planet and its people from the loss of flora and fauna, and helping to make the world a tiny bit less inhospitable.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe, a Toronto-based environmental organization. Email: LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com.

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About Lawrence Solomon

Lawrence Solomon is one of Canada's leading environmentalists. His book, The Conserver Solution (Doubleday) popularized the Conserver Society concept in the late 1970s and became the manual for those interested in incorporating environmental factors into economic life. An advisor to President Jimmy Carter's Task Force on the Global Environment (the Global 2000 Report) in the late 1970's, he has since been at the forefront of movements to reform foreign aid, stop nuclear power expansion and adopt toll roads. Mr. Solomon is a founder and managing director of Energy Probe Research Foundation and the executive director of its Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute divisions. He has been a columnist for The Globe and Mail, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the editor and publisher of the award-winning The Next City magazine, and the author or co-author of seven books, most recently The Deniers, a #1 environmental best-seller in both Canada and the U.S. .
This entry was posted in Climate Change, Costs, Benefits and Risks, Energy Probe News, Fossil Fuels, Global Cooling, The Deniers and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Lawrence Solomon: Carbon bounties (not taxes) could save us from the next Little Ice Age

  1. David Wieland says:

    But does CO2 have anything to do with whether or not the atmospheric and ground temperatures rise? See for example
    http://www.aoi.com.au/bcw/GreenhouseGasFallacyII.htm

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