The federal government's plan to deal with climate change is running into stiff head winds -- partly because many Canadians don't believe the science. Andrew Coyne writes:
Fully 40 per cent of Canadians think climate change is either not happening or is due to natural causes, according to a new poll by Abacus Data. Even among the 60 per cent who think it’s real and man-made, there is no consensus on what, if anything, should be done about it.
The picture grows even cloudier when it comes to the particular solution of carbon pricing. Only 42 per cent claimed to have any understanding of the concept; most could not even say whether their own province had such a plan. And while nearly half (46 per cent) thought it was a good idea, versus 22 per cent opposed, this was very much in the abstract, with carbon pricing yet to be implemented over much of the country, and barely begun to be phased in where it has.
Saskatchewan is adamantly opposed to a carbon tax. If Doug Ford wins the election, Ontario will become a big naysayer. And who knows what will happen in Alberta? In the face of the growing backlash, Coyne makes a straightforward proposal -- raise carbon taxes to a level that will significantly slow fossil fuel consumption while lowering income taxes to make up the difference. That is not what governments have been doing:
Rather than recycle any revenues collected back to the public in the form of cuts in other taxes, moreover, as under B.C.’s pioneering (and successful) carbon tax, they have increasingly used the proceeds to spend on other things, notably the same failed subsidy and regulatory programs carbon taxes were supposed to replace.
Indeed, not only have they kept all the old programs, but they are piling new ones on top, hoping these costlier, but invisible-to-the-public programs will attract less popular wrath than the cheaper but all-too-visible carbon tax. But the failure to tax carbon at a level that will do much good only invites the public to ask why it is being taxed at all. And, equally, it invites the response: as a revenue grab. We have, in short, the worst of both worlds, saddled with programs that won’t work but will cause maximum public aggravation.
Coyne spouts the usual conservative boiler plate -- government programs don't work -- a highly contentious argument. Nonetheless, scientists generally agree that the current carbon tax proposal will do little to stop climate change. If the government established a tax of $200 per ton, and offset that cost with a cut in income taxes, we might reach our climate change goals. Come to think of it, Coyne's proposal sounds a lot like Stephane Dion's Green shift of fifteen years ago. Is history repeating itself?
Image: Radio Canada.ca