Letter: Concerns, alarms and a carbon tax

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Editor of the Reformer,

Rep. Pattie McCoy, the Vermont House Minority Leader, claims that she shares Vermonters' "concerns" about climate change and "its impacts on the integrity of Vermont's natural beauty" (Reformer, Jan. 9, 2020). Really? Is it merely "concern" for the natural beauty of our environment? For many of us, the existential threat the world is facing due to climate change is cause for serious alarm and bold action by the legislature.

I believe, too, that many Vermonters care deeply about the world beyond our borders. Island nations and coastal cities will soon be submerged. Droughts, wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves will be more severe and will cause untold deaths. Hundreds of millions will be displaced causing unprecedented suffering and political turmoil. Natural disasters in this country will cost us billions and even greater human suffering. It is absolutely certain that global temperatures will continue to rise and the effects of this rise will get worse. And, yes, Vermont has already felt the direct and indirect effects of these cataclysmic events. We realize that events like Hurricane Irene are not a once-in-a-century event. We realize that the explosion of virus-infected ticks is only a prelude to future health dangers. We realize that we don't live in isolation of the rest of the country or the world.

So what do we do about climate change? The consensus is that carbon emissions have got to be drastically reduced. In the last decade, the world — led by fossil-fuel consumption in the U.S., China and India — has emitted more carbon dioxide than in all of human history. What we can and must do in our own state is to take bold action to reduce those emissions and one such action, which Rep. McCoy has been against, is a carbon tax.

The argument against a carbon tax is that it would be regressive, hurting the poorest and most vulnerable. However, measures such as tax rebates and exemptions for farm diesel for agriculture could effectively address these issues. As our legislature debates the pros and cons of a carbon tax, I hope they will consider the positive results of these environmental taxes in 10 other states plus Canada, Mexico and Europe. Research shows that carbon taxes effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, economists generally argue that carbon taxes are the most efficient and effective way to curb carbon emissions. Bills such as H. 477, introduced by Rep. Gonzalez, proposes a fee on fossil fuels that would be reinvested in transportation and weatherization and returned as tax credits for low income Vermonters. This is the kind of action that we need. A Wall Street Journal article states that "a carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed it is necessary" (WSJ, "Economists' Statement on Carbon at the scale and speed that is necessary," Jan. 16, 2019). Written with sensible provisions, carbon taxes can be the most socially equitable and powerful deterrent to climate change in Vermont.

I trust that the majority of our legislators appreciate the climate crisis for what it is and will move forward this year with a carbon tax that will reduce emissions, increase revenue to fight the climate crisis, and protect those who are most vulnerable to tax hikes.

Tim Maciel

Brattleboro Common Sense

Jan. 11

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