Why Not Tie A Carbon Tax To Temperature?

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 5 2013 @ 3:43pm

First, a question: is the discovery of climate change mankind’s greatest achievement?

But how should we respond to those measurements? Ross McKitrick, a global warming skeptic, suggests (pdf) a climate policy compromise:

[T]he best way to proceed would be to put a small tax on CO2 emissions, and tie its subsequent evolution to a suitable measure of atmospheric temperatures. If temperatures go up, so does the tax. If they do not, the tax does not change. In this way everybody will expect to get the policy they think best, and whoever turns out to be right deserves to be so. Sceptics who do not believe in global warming will not expect the tax to go up, and might even expect it to go down. Those convinced we are in for rapid warming will expect the tax to rise quickly in the years ahead. Companies managing factories and power plants will have to figure out who is more likely to be right, because billions of dollars of potential tax liabilities will depend on what is going to happen. Nobody will benefit from using false or exaggerated science: instead the market will identify those who can prove they understand the climate well enough to make accurate forecasts. And policy-makers will be guaranteed that, whatever the tax does in the future, the policy will turn out to have been the right one.

Bailey thinks “McKitrick’s proposal seems quite sensible because it harnesses the vast dispersed knowledge of scientists, manufacturers, fossil fuel suppliers, renewable energy innovators, and speculators to address the problem of climate change.”