As the hysteria over global warming heats up, carbon taxes have become the ?cool? option. Environmentalists love them. So do politicians, who are more than happy to raise taxes while scoring political points.
Carbon taxes, or other analogous pricing schemes, are now prevalent in Western Europe, and are making headway in North America. For example, La Californie a récemment uni ses forces avec les provinces canadiennes de l’Ontario et du Québec afin de créer un marché intégré du carbone, basé sur le système de plafonnement et d’échange.
On top of this, many well-known economists support carbon taxes, thinking they?re the best way to mitigate man?s contribution to climate change. A nouveau rapport written by thirteen leading economists under the direction of professors Nicholas Stern and Joseph Stiglitz?who won a Nobel Prize in 2001?recommends the adoption of a global carbon tax.
The tax would value carbon emissions somewhere between 50 and 100 USD per ton by 2030, and would cost upwards of $4 trillion. Theoretically, the tax would raise the cost of using carbon-intensive sources of energy, thereby nudging producers to switch from fossil fuels to ?green energy? sources like wind and solar power. Likewise, it would raise the cost of electricity, thus creating an incentive to use energy more efficiently.
This makes sense in theory. There?s just one problem. It won?t work.
In reality, carbon taxes are just that: taxes. They?re a money-grab disguised with good intentions. Worse still, carbon taxes ne sera pas réduire nos émissions de gaz à effet de serre.
Au lieu de cela, l’adoption de taxes sur le carbone dans les pays occidentaux élever global carbon emissions by offshoring economic activity from relatively environmentally-friendly places, like the USA and Germany, to places with lax environmental laws, like China:
Marchés ouverts et délocalisation, ou comment les taxes sur le carbone augmentent les émissions mondiales de CO2
Wealth is like water: it flows to the lowest possible point, and continues to do so until the level is equal. This is why consumers chase cheaper goods, why investors look for undervalued companies, and why multinationals offshore to cheaper markets. This last point?délocalisation?is why Western carbon taxes will actually increase global emissions.
The underlying logic is fairly straightforward. Pretend there are only two countries in the world: Germany and China. The cost of doing business in them is identical, however China?s economy is twice as carbon-intensive as Germany?s. In other words, it costs $1 to build a widget in either country, but the widget?s carbon footprint in Germany is only 1 kilogram of carbon, compared to 2 kilograms in China.
Clearly it?s better for the environment if widgets are made in Germany.
But Germany?s not satisfied: they want to further reduce their carbon emissions. Therefore, they impose a carbon tax of 10 percent per widget. This raises the cost of making widgets in Germany to $1.10. Ideally, German widget-makers will invest in energy-efficient machinery, and the government can use the tax revenues to plant more trees.
Sadly Germany?s politicians forgot something: Germany is an open market. This means that German consumers can simply buy Chinese widgets?which still only cost $1 to make.
At this point, Germany?s widget-makers have two options: (1) they can foreclose, since they?re unable to compete with artificially cheaper Chinese widgets, or (2) they can move their factories to China and import the widgets back into Germany. Either way, China ends up building enough widgets for both China and Germany, and Germany doubles its carbon emissions.
Now imagine what our example would look like if China built widgets for $0.1 rather than $1, and they generated three times as much emissions per widget of Germany, since this better reflects reality. Would a carbon tax in Germany have a hope of reducing global emissions? No.
Des preuves empiriques suggèrent que les taxes sur le carbone augmenteront les émissions mondiales de CO2
La logique montre que les taxes sur le carbone en Occident augmenteront invariablement les émissions mondiales de CO2, mais il en va de même pour les preuves empiriques.
Pour commencer, les données du Banque mondiale reveals that China, and other developing countries, produce far more carbon per dollar of economic output (at purchasing power parity) than do Western nations. For example, China produced 0.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide per dollar of economic output in 2014, whereas America produced 0.3 kg of CO2, and Germany produced just 0.2 kg.
De plus, la Chine ne montre aucun signe de réduction de ses émissions pour le moment: China?s currently building hundreds of new coal-fired power plants, ce qui garantira que ses émissions de CO2 continueront à augmenter pendant les décennies à venir.
Pris ensemble, ces faits suggèrent que toutes les usines expulsées de l'Ouest à cause des taxes sur le carbone augmentent considérablement les émissions mondiales, et cela continuera d'être le cas pendant des décennies.
Un certain nombre d'autres études ont abouti à la même conclusion.
Un important article publié dans Actes de la National Academy of Sciences, found that carbon reductions alleged to the Kyoto Protocol were more than offset by increase emissions from imported products. Glen Peters of the Centre de recherche internationale sur le climat et l'environnement dit ceci de la recherche:
Our study shows for the first time that emissions from increased production of internationally traded products have more than offset the emissions reductions achieved under the Kyoto Protocol ? this suggests that the current focus on territorial emissions in a subset of countries may be ineffective at reducing global emissions without some mechanisms to monitor and report emissions from the production of imported goods and services.
Essentially, local carbon taxes are not a useful tool for mitigating a nation?s carbon footprint. If anything they actually raise global emissions. The paper also notes that China accounts for some 75 percent of the developed world?s offshored emissions.
Une autre étude publiée dans Le gardien, found that ?50 percent of the rise in Chinese emissions are the result of goods for foreign markets.? This was echoed in a different study from the scientific journal Lettres de recherche géophysique, which found that cuts in carbon emissions by developed countries have been cancelled out ?many times over? by increases in imported goods from developing countries?especially China.
Un autre étude ont constaté que toutes les réductions de carbone retentissantes dans des pays tels que l'Allemagne s'effondrent sous un examen minutieux:
According to standard date, developed countries can claim to have reduced their collective emissions by almost 2% between 1990 and 2008. But once the carbon cost of imports have been added to each country, and exports subtracted ? the true change has been an increase of 7%. If Russia and Ukraine ? which cut their CO2 emissions rapidly in the 1990s due to economic collapse ? are excluded, the rise is 12%.
Au cours de la même période, les émissions du Royaume-Uni ont diminué de 28 millions de tonnes, mais si l’on prend en compte les importations et les exportations, l’empreinte domestique a augmenté de plus de 100 millions de tonnes. L’Europe a réussi à réduire ses émissions de CO2 de 6%, mais l’impartition est réduite à 1%.
Together, these studies conclusively show that the offshoring of Western industry to China has actually increased global carbon emissions. It is unreasonable to assume that a carbon tax, which will further increase the incentive for business owners to offshore, will magically reduce global carbon emissions. There is no silver bullet. Carbon taxes are a pipe dream.
Carbon Taxes Won?t Reduce Global CO2 Emissions?Now What?
Carbon taxes will not reduce global carbon emissions?they?ll only make things worse. So what should we do?
First, I think we should stop and put things in perspective. No matter your opinion on climate chance, we should begin with the assertion that carbon dioxide is not a harmful chemical in the traditional sense of the word. It?s actually essential for all life on earth?plants need it to live.
The obsession with carbon emissions is allowing many real polluters to fly under the radar. For example, fertilizers and pesticides runoff from our farms is creating gigantic ?dead zones? downstream. Algal blooms are choking out life a the mouths of major rivers throughout the world. Likewise, la déforestation est (souvent inutilement) dépouillant le monde de ses habitats les plus précieux.
These are real environmental problems that aren?t getting attention because carbon dioxide is so ardently demonized. It?s time we put things in perspective, triaged the situation, and started frying the biggest fish.