Wednesday, July 17, 2024

It is becoming more and more common to hear about the true cost of using energy. These conversations are a serious reminder that we all have been “free riders” with regard to earth’s natural resources, using them as if they were infinite and without harm. Most of us complain that the price of gas at the pump has been rising, but in reality, it is not even close to reflecting its true cost to our health, the economy, communities and the environment.

Global warming should be a concern to every individual on the planet. For the skeptics, a recent survey confirms that there is a consensus among 97 percent of climate scientists that global warming is happening, and that it is caused by human activities. Whether near or far from us, its consequences will affect all of us: Water and food supply shortages, an increasing number of storms and their magnitude, sea level rising and risk of flood, droughts and species lost are just a few examples.

One solution to global warming gaining in popularity is to “internalize the externalities” where users pay the full cost of the energy they consume. Carbon dioxide being the principal greenhouse gas, it seems only logical to place a tax on its emissions, and even better is a revenue-neutral carbon tax in which the proceeds are returned to the public. Here are some advantages: As expected, CO2 emissions will decline as we will lean toward greener energy sources; the state of the economy will improve with a higher gross domestic product and the creation of U.S. jobs; and we are guaranteed a better future.

No one wants to deal with the terrible, unimaginable consequences of global warming 50 years down the road. The cheaper, safer and more sustainable way to prevent global warming from destroying the planet that we love is to take action today – to reduce carbon dioxide emissions today. This is what a revenue-neutral tax can achieve.

Michele Lessard

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The writer is a Cambridge resident and Babson College senior working on a carbon-tax and climate change campaign.