By now everyone should know that there is no reasonable debate among scientists that global climate change AKA global warming is real, is caused by greenhouse gas emissions primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), and will cause catastrophic consequences for humans in the coming decades if we do not substantially reduce emissions soon. If you doubt any part of that statement, check out Lawyers Should Listen to Scientists on Climate Change.
What seems to be less well known is that there is a near universal consensus among economists that the most effective way to reduce CO2 emissions is through some type of carbon pricing policy.
In the United States, proponents of a carbon pricing to reduce CO2 emissions include well known economists such as:
- George Schultz—Secretary of the Treasury for President Nixon and Secretary of State for President Reagan
- Gregory Mankiw—Chairman and Professor of Economics at Harvard University
- Henry M. Paulson, Jr.—Secretary of the Treasury for President George W. Bush
- Robert H. Frank—Professor of Economics at Cornell University
- Robert Rubin—Secretary of the Treasury for President Clinton
- Laura D’Andrea Tyson—Chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Clinton
- Lawrence Summers—Secretary of the Treasury for President Obama
That’s just some of the many prominent economists who support carbon pricing. In fact, most economists support carbon pricing because it would make using fossil fuels more expensive, so people would use less of them. At the same time it would make other alternatives—like conservation and renewable energy sources much more attractive. It would “unleash a wave of innovation to develop technologies, lower the costs of clean energy and create jobs as we and other nations develop new energy products and infrastructure,” as Hank Paulson said.
One particularly attractive alternative is the carbon fee and dividend proposed by Citizens Climate Lobby. Under this proposal, all of the revenues collected would be returned to citizens on a per capita basis. As George Schultz has said, “It’s not a tax if the government doesn’t keep the money.”
We already know that climate change is a serious problem that must be addressed soon or our children will face a world growing increasingly unlivable. Now we know that there is a solution endorsed by all serious economists. Faced with this knowledge, we as lawyers should do all we can to convince elected officials to establish effective carbon pricing now.
You can start by signing the Petition for Immediate Action On Climate Change