Letter: Carbon tax, climate change and gas prices

I get it — we have to change our behaviour because we are causing the climate to change

The recent increase in gas prices due to the carbon tax is hitting us all.

I get it — we have to change our behaviour because we are causing the climate to change, and if we don’t change we are in for an environmental catastrophe. Whether we like it or not, whether it is economically feasible or not, whether we decide to bury our heads in the sand and ignore it or not, and no matter how many people are displaced or killed, the Earth and all of its complex interacting ecosystems will just respond to the increased green-house gas conditions accordingly. And if you think it isn’t happening, then you’ve not been paying attention, or refuse to do so.

However, where does all of that carbon tax go? Certainly, the person on the street isn’t seeing it. Where are increased subsidies for electric cars? Where are increased subsidies for installing solar panels? For geo-thermal heating/cooling? It is a political and environmental mistake for the politicians not to have — and communicate — an action plan for changing us to a lower carbon future that the person on the street can respond to. For example, several years ago I looked at geo-thermal heating/cooling for my home. The cost: about $30,000, with a $5,000 subsidy. Not at all economically feasible. If, however, there was a $25,000 subsidy and natural gas prices were several times what they are now, the decision would be different. For solar panels: now it is a $15,000 capital cost for $1,000/year of electricity savings. With a $10,000 subsidy — paid by higher carbon taxes — it is very attractive, especially if that $5,000 outlay is at a low interest rate.

Electric car? Too expensive now; use the carbon tax to change the equation and I’d do it in a heartbeat. What about changing building codes to level the playing field for real-estate pricing wherein each new development requires that, say, 80 per cent of its energy come from local green renewables? Also, improved subsidies for those economically disadvantaged are essential since we all have to change.

Politicians have to realize that they are trying to change folks behaviour in a manner that is contrary to our psychology. Most of us will change our behaviour if there are immediate benefits or consequences. The problem with climate change is that no one person is responsible or can influence it. It requires us all. So, governments need to create the conditions for us to change our behaviour by paying heed to the psychology they are dealing with. Not doing so puts them at political risk of being tossed out on the next election and has all of us heading towards an environmental disaster, the likes of which we are just starting to experience and pay for.

Brent Carlson


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