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Providing an Incentive to Reduce Carbon Emissions

It won't be easy to pay for reducing greenhouse gas emissions when we won't be the primary beneficiaries

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As your article pointed out (“Why We Don’t Care About Saving Our Grandchildren From Climate Change”), it won’t be easy to pay for reducing greenhouse gas emissions when we won’t be the primary beneficiaries. But the article’s conclusion, that we should invest in “cheap clean energy” instead of making fossil fuels more expensive, assumes that government investments are somehow free. Investments in clean energy technologies are crucial, but the days of increasing spending without raising taxes are likely over.

Another way to reduce carbon emissions while “working with our selfishness” (to quote the author) is to place a fee on carbon and then return the revenue equally to every household. Such a “fee and dividend” program would fully compensate most people for higher production costs passed onto them. A fee on carbon would provide an economic incentive to reduce our energy use, and a fee that increased over time would encourage businesses to invest in sustainable energy technologies. Receiving a dividend check in the mail could be the short-term incentive we need to do the right thing.

Eric Ettlinger, Berkeley