Culprit Tax (Carbon Tax) to Pay For Disaster Preparedness

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 4:13 pm

An astute reader may have noticed I haven’t pushed carbon dioxide offsets or other mitigation strategies to slow or stop abrupt climate in the game. I’m looking at things that will make a community better able to deal with a range of future disasters. Guilianni probably didn’t think a terrorist attack would take out his command center on 9/11, but because NYC had thought hard about disasters in general they were able to rebuild the facilities they needed in record time in the midst of dealing with a disaster.

That said, paying for disaster preparations takes some money & taxing the culprit to both generate the funds needed for planning and as a deterrent makes sense.

Carbon taxes raise the price of fuel and encourage conservation. They’re easy for a state or community because a fixed percentage can be added to the existing tax structure and can be presented with a clear rational of the social good expected from paying the higher cost. Similarly, property taxes in potential flood zones can be used to discourage development or ‘escrow’ funds to pay for the inevitable recovery effort that will be needed. (This need is independent of global warming needs – if people insist on living in 100-year flood plains, we know that the area will flood, even if only once every 100 years and the community will have to rescue the inhabitants.) Can a disaster tax help / be administered to encourage more global anti-disaster positions?

A Humvee is not only a polluting disaster, it’s excessive weight wears down roads faster and escalates fatalities of others in a crash (the Humvee occupants rate to survive). The least expensive refrigerators are often the least efficient and are another slow-moving environmental disaster. Items made in developing countries not only benefit from cheap labor, they don’t pay environmental costs more developed countries force on their manufacturing facilities. Can sliding taxes on these items encourage more socially good choices?

Can technology make this workable? Start with an initial tax rate – for cars – a sliding scale tax rate based on their weight or – for imports – a fixed amount based on the environmental impact of the source country or state. Exemptions from the tax could be applied for on a wiki. Allow manufacturers to post a non-pollution claim with documentation to the wiki and invite evaluations from the public. Broad public scrutiny may help determine if the comments by Highly Energetic People IN Favor of Humvees (HEPINFOH) is the union of distracted drivers transporting badly-behaved children who would like a vehicle that protects them and their charges from accidents or the knitting circle of highly-paid vehicle-manufacturing executives’ wives. HEPINFOH’s claims can then be evaluated accordingly. Periodically accept or deny exemption claims based on current input to the initial claim. Since the evaluations would be publicly available more than one region could use the exemption bureaucracy.

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