Cap and Evade

The rush is on to conclude a global compact on climate change before the signing session due to take place in Copenhagen in December.  European political leaders, scientists and legal experts have descended on Washington in recent weeks to educate the administration and the Congress on the importance of  U.S. making the right decisions to  make the new treaty successful. The key problem is how to set a lowered ceiling on carbon dioxide emissions. The main mechanisms under discussion are so-called cap and trade regimes by which nations or firms that exceed their ceiling can purchase credits from those who have not reached their limit.  Europe has used this system for some years to meet the targets of the Kyoto Protocols and failed to attain the targeted reductions, even as the markets for carbon permits have proved unpredictable.

American policymakers ought to weigh Europe’s failure in their decisions. Cap and trade is popular in Washington for two reasons. It allows smokestack industries to buy their way out of adjustments they don’t want to make; and it has the appearance of expanding free-market practices, giving high-priced jobs to economists, traders and accountants, rather than allowing modestly paid bureaucrats to impose unwanted restrictions on business. If, however, the world’s largest experiment in cap and trade is a failure, then we ought to admit before we start that it is simply a way for the unwilling to evade responsibility and save ourselves thetrouble of creating ineffective legislation that will only worsen atmospheric conditions for centuries to come.


A simpler and more effective carbon tax proposal has been introduced in Congress by Congressman John D. Larson, Democrat of Connecticut. Right now it not regarded as politically feasible. The ideological momentum is behind carbon trading. But, if a carbon tax is made revenue neutral–Mr. Larson would balance it with lowered payroll taxes–and not add to the bureaucracy, it is conceivable it could become politically viable. How could the ideologues reject an effective remedy for CO2 emissions that comes at no added cost? Let’s watch and see.

Drew Christiansen, S.J.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
9 years ago
Is the connection between CO2 emissions and global warming a confirmed scientific fact? My favorite guru on the subject of the atmosphere - James Lovelock - believe not. Reducing CO2 emissions is likely a good idea. But global warming? My eyes refute it by looking at the snowfall outside my window. Perhaps it is reverse global warming.
9 years ago
As long as there is real pollution which is actually choking people and killing fish, etc., this faux pollution is a distraction. Let's actually clean up the toxic stuff that is poisoning people by either forcibly installing abatement devices or shutting facilities down until they do - no matter where we find it and especially in the developing world where the local peasantry is often victimized by our waste.
9 years ago
Father Christiansen: A simple proposal that you could initiate on your own, quit breathing out CO2. Also, stop up the other end because Methane is supposed to add to global warming. Say hello to Father Jim Martin. I hope to see him again this year at Lourdes. Mike Fleming, MD


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

(Photo: Redd Angelo/Unsplash) 
Mr. Trump campaigned as uniquely qualified to improve the infrastructure of the United States, but he has so far made little discernible progress in this area.
The EditorsMarch 23, 2018
The Trump administration should reconsider its shortsighted and inhuman restrictions on refugee resettlement
The EditorsMarch 23, 2018
To recognize the specific rights of disadvantaged people is to affirm God's love for all people.
Nichole M. FloresMarch 23, 2018
(Photo: Jason Edwards/Unsplash)
In making decisions about what to eat, respondents to an informal survey told America that the most important factor was their own health.
Our readersMarch 23, 2018