What about a carbon tax?

Carbon taxes might have been sufficient if we’d started with them in the 1990s, but for the taxes to achieve the 100% adoption rates we need now they would have to ramp up very quickly. They would be difficult to implement, as well as regressive, hitting lower-income people hardest. A carbon tax is useful in decarbonizing the hard-to-reach end points of the material and industrial economy, but won’t be rapid enough to transition home heating to furnaces to heat pumps, and vehicles from internal combustion engines (ICEs) to electric vehicles (EVs) at the rate required.

Long answer

A carbon tax isn’t a solution. A carbon tax is a market fix meant to motivate all of the other solutions to compete. It’s designed to slowly increase the price of carbon dioxide, and slowly make fossil fuels uncompetitive. The idea is that a high enough carbon tax would make all of the fossil fuels more expensive than at least some of the other solutions, and then a perfectly rational market would use those solutions.

Carbon taxes might have been sufficient if we’d started with them in the 1990s, but for the taxes to achieve the 100% adoption rates we need now they would have to ramp up very quickly. They would be difficult to implement, as well as regressive, hitting lower--income people hardest. It is probably just as effective to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, which in many markets would tip the scales in favor of alternatives anyway. And by the time we have the political will to implement a carbon tax, renewables with batteries will be cheaper than fossil fuels.

A carbon tax is useful in decarbonizing the hard--to--reach end points of the material and industrial economy, but won’t be rapid enough to transition home heating to furnaces to heat pumps, and vehicles from internal combustion engines (ICEs) to electric vehicles (EVs) at the rate required.

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