As a carbon-based life form, I'm fond of carbon. Taxing it doesn't sound appealing to me.

As someone who likes the sea levels where they are, I find taxing greenhouse gas emissions compelling, like taxing cigarettes, which reduced smoking, extended lives, and increased revenues.

"Pollution tax," not "carbon tax," sounds more appealing and responsible

Carbon is an element. It doesn't appear or disappear. It bonds to other elements differently. Saying you tax it doesn't make sense, however effective the policy.

The problem isn't carbon. It's the effects of some molecules in certain places in the environment.

We have a name for chemicals contaminating the environment: pollution.

I don't like pollution. The name "Pollution tax" makes sense. It can also apply to similar contaminating behavior besides greenhouse gas emissions, such as emitting mercury or littering.

Let's stop identifying a proposed tax by words that don't describe it accurately, nor make as much sense.

Then carbon stops being the problem. It's just an element. Pollution is a problem that taxing could improve, as taxing cigarettes did.

An Alternative: an "Externality tax"

Another problem with pollution is that it imposes costs on people who have to live with the effects of the pollution. One person saves money by polluting instead of cleaning his or her mess. Many others' health suffers, they have to pay to clean it, and so on.

In other words, pollution externalizes costs to people with no say in it but still suffer from it.

Laws regulate how some people's behavior affects others. That is, you're free to swing your fists how you like when you're alone, but most people support laws regulating when those fists hit someone else.

So taxing externalities that affect others makes sense to my ears.

I propose calling so-called carbon taxes "Pollution taxes" or "Externality taxes."

Published on: Apr 2, 2018