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Addressing climate change through A Carbon Tax

By Abdi Ayana

The evidence is irrefutable: the earth has warmed during the industrial era. Unless we act immediately to reduce emissions, we will face the worst consequences of climate change caused by carbon emissions. And the most effective and efficient tool to mitigate carbon emissions is a carbon tax, which is a charge placed on greenhouse gas pollution mainly from burning fossil fuels.

Canada: One of the Worst Polluters

Canada’s National Observer asserts that earth’s average surface temperature has risen by about 1.0°C since 1880 and this warming is largely caused by human activities. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from about 280 parts per million in 1880 to 410 ppm in 2019. Carbon dioxide, the most dominant greenhouse gas is produced by the burning of fossil fuels, industrial production, and land use change. Globally, almost 80% of greenhouse gas emissions from human sources come from the burning of fossil fuels and industrial processes. Activities that contribute to emissions include: driving vehicles, electricity production, heating and cooling of buildings, operation of appliances and equipment, production and transportation of goods, and provision of services and transportation for communities.

Canada is one of the top ten global emitters of climate pollution. In 2021, about 28% of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions came from the oil and gas sector, 22% from transport, 13% from buildings and 11% from the heavy industry sector. As a result, the analysis by U.K.-based Carbon Brief studies cumulative emissions since 1850 says Canada is responsible for 2.6 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions and as a result bears greater responsibility to align itself with a climate-safe future. Temperature has increased in all regions of Canada and in the surrounding oceans. Since 1948, when nation-wide records became available, Canada’s annual average temperature over land has warmed by a best estimate of 1.7°C. As a result, Canada is warming at more than twice the global rate and the Canadian Arctic is warming at about three times the global rate.  

Impact of Climate Change

Greenhouse gases from human activities are the most significant driver of observed climate change which in turn is having impacts on the environment, health and the economy.

Environmental Impact

  • Average annual temperatures are expected to increase
  • Snow, sea ice and glacier coverage will decrease resulting in rising sea levels and increased coastal flooding
  • Heat waves are likely to increase in frequency and severity, resulting in higher risks of forest fires
  • Many wildlife species will have difficulty adapting to a warmer climate and will likely be subject to greater stress from diseases and invasive species

Health Impact

Economic Impact

  • Agriculture, forestry, tourism and recreation may be affected by changing weather patterns
  • Human health impacts will place additional economic stress on health and social support systems
  • Damage to infrastructure such as roads and bridges caused by extreme weather

The Solution: A Carbon Tax

A carbon tax is the most efficient and powerful method of combating global warming and reducing air pollution, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund. Under a carbon tax, the government sets a price that emitters must pay for each ton of greenhouse gas they emit. Businesses and consumers will take steps, such as switching fuels or adopting new technologies, to reduce their emissions to avoid paying the tax.

Taxes on greenhouse gases come in two broad forms as explained by C2ES:

  1. an emissions tax: based on the quantity an entity produces
  2. a tax on goods or services: a carbon tax on gasoline

This has already proven to be a success in British Colombia where a carbon tax was introduced in 2008. Analyses suggest that the policy has reduced emissions by up to 15%. Meanwhile, provincial real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by more than 17% from 2007 to 2015 outpacing the rest of Canada. Furthermore, per-capita gasoline demand dropped by 15% between 2007 and 2014.

Climate change is here to stay and its impacts are unavoidable. A carbon tax is proving to be the most powerful tool in the fight against climate change and the government must ensure it is comprehensive across Canada to be even more effective.