By Rachel Roberts
Embedded in the discourse of many environmental problems is the term carbon dioxide (CO2). It is almost impossible to talk about most environmental issues without referencing CO2 at least once or twice. With all these problems revolving around CO2, it is important to know what it is, and why it should matter to us.
Carbon dioxide represents about 82% of all greenhouse gas emissions released by humans. Although CO2 occurs naturally, the combustion of fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, and other practices contributes more CO2 to the atmosphere than the earth can naturally absorb. Scientific studies indicate that climate change is making the earth a lot warmer than it would otherwise be. This is a problem as climate change can, and already is, having significant impacts on agriculture, health, the ocean, and other ecosystems.
Prior to the industrial revolution, CO2 levels were about 270 parts per million (ppm). In 2012, the EPA estimated that current CO2 levels have surpassed 400 ppm. Many climate scientists, however, say CO2 levels need to be reduced to at least 350 ppm to avoid some of the devastating affects of climate change. It is evident that something needs to be done.
Countries such as Finland, China, India, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Australia have instituted carbon taxes, as well as a couple of states in the United States in an effort to reduce CO2 levels. Beth Vanden Heuvel, of Tri Marine International, says, “[although] there are still many kinks to work out, if properly implemented, the carbon tax could be a promising and overall cost-effective method of reducing carbon emissions in the foreseeable future.”
In essence, a carbon tax is exactly what it sounds like. As industries and polluters release carbon into the atmosphere, they will be taxed per ton released. When we make a purchase at the store, the current price we pay does not reflect the carbon-intensive materials or environmental expenses in the manufacturing process.
Once a carbon tax is instigated, the market price of a good would also take into account the pollution being released during the manufacturing process. Products manufactured through highly environmentally harmful practices would become more expensive, increasing the incentive for many industries and companies to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.
It is time we start urging public officials to enact legislation that will help curb greenhouse gas emissions to limit potential damage resulting from climate change. Carbon tax is just one possibility! There are a number of ways to instigate meaningful change through market power.
It is these types of innovations that will help us decrease CO2 levels, not current processes, such as oil development in the arctic, that are becoming increasingly detrimental to the earth. We should motivate businesses to adopt more environmentally sound practices—not punish them with more taxes. New technologies may be initially more expensive, but we can also adopt global policies and practices to guide our own, and developing countries, towards sound environmental practices.
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“Environment: Healing the Web of Life.” Sustainable World Sourcebook: Critical Issues, Viable Solutions, Resources for Action. Berkeley, CA: Sustainable World Coalition, 2014. 22-26. Print.
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