Quirk: Should the Canadian government put a price on carbon?

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October 11, 2012

The comedian David Brenner used to have a remark for people he judged to be egregiously ignorant on some issue: “Read a book!” The implication: “You’re so far off base that just about any book will straighten you out on this matter.” Carbon pricing is like that. But to be slightly more helpful than Brenner, I’ll say “read two books.” First, any responsible work on climate change will make clear the compelling need for substantial measures to reduce production of greenhouse gases. More specifically, I recommend an article by the Yale economist William Nordhaus, “Why the Skeptics Are Wrong” in the March 2012 New York Review of Books. Second, any serious work on environmental policy will make clear the vast superiority of carbon pricing over traditional “command-and-control” regulation. The pricing strategy produces the greatest reduction of emissions at the least cost. The carbon tax will hurt a little but we’ll get used to it. The alternative will be much harder to get used to.