WHAT IF, HORROR OF HORRORS, we’ve got this whole carbon-pricing thing wrong? And what if many of those who don’t believe in climate change are actually more concerned about the impact of carbon taxes on their lives then they are about the negative impacts of climate change?
A recent study shows that 34 per cent of Canadians either don’t believe in or are only mildly concerned about climate change. The 66 per cent who feel climate change is a major threat say the science is irrefutable.
Admittedly, I’m on the irrefutable side but I’m beginning to think I may have made a mistake in supporting the current carbon tax solution. Let me explain.
As an opinion writer, I get to hear from and talk with people from all sides of the climate discussion. Everyone claims expertise and knows someone who knows someone who talked to someone who knows a scientist who told them…
However, in the midst of the short-tempered vitriol often found on social media, I have noticed a recurring theme and a repeated demand. No matter how detailed and lengthy the argument against the existence of climate change is, in the end there is almost always a demand for the withdrawal of the carbon tax. For some, that tax is the inescapable foe.
It is the flag to which disbelievers of climate change rally around and I have started to wonder if denial is simply the ground on which to fight a tax and political battle as opposed to the climate battle.
I’m also very disappointed with the B.C. government (past and present) that once promised all carbon tax money collected would go to the Innovative Clean Energy fund (ICE) and used to support the development and commercialization of clean technologies.
ICE is still around but a shadow of its former fiscal self and for the most part, the money has ended up in general revenue. When government does something like that, it only adds credibility to the claim of it being just another tax grab.
And so I began to wonder what would happen if the flag were removed from the field of battle.
Admittedly, it does encourage conservation but the model is based on punishment. However, given the size of our country (transportation) and severity of our winters (heating), we are punished for this fickle fate of geography we, as Canadians, all share.
So what would happen if we changed the carbon tax model from punishment to a reward model? The carbon — one size fits all — tax for consumers is abolished and replaced with an incentive model.
Lower your consumption and you are rewarded with tax credits. Choose not to increase or decrease your consumption and nothing happens, including not qualifying for generous tax credits. Increase your consumption and much like luxury taxes on expensive homes and fancy cars, you will have to pay extra (sales tax) for the privilege.
The make everyone pay, punishment model is showing signs of becoming part of the problem instead of the solution. And shaming is simply the fastest route to entrenched polarization.
Modifying behaviour is always a difficult proposition. In this case it is made more difficult as behaviour seems to be directly linked to political affiliations. Yet I have a suspicion that incentives would help reduce political polarization, actually cost less, obtain better results and improve the situation faster than the punishment model.
Bill McQuarrie is a former magazine publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur. Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.