McQUARRIE – What if we’ve got this whole carbon-pricing thing wrong?

(Image: Mel Rothenburger)

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

About Mel Rothenburger (8056 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on McQUARRIE – What if we’ve got this whole carbon-pricing thing wrong?

  1. Currently the CO² levels are ebbing dangerously low we need more carbon emissions to allow for greater photosynthesis of all green plants! If pants can’t get the CO²that they require they can’t harvest energy from the sun and this could push herbivores into extinction.

  2. Any possible benefits from the carbon tax will be negated by the exponential growth in wood pellet production for the international market. Apart from the destruction of our forests this will dramatically increase Greenhouse emissions as burning wood liberates more CO2 per unit of heat than coal and three times as much as natural gas. Then it takes 50 to 100 years for the trees to grow back and begin removing a significant amount of CO2, at which point they will be felled for pellets and never reduce significant amounts of CO2. Then migration into our cold, high energy– consuming country could grow to hundreds of millions at the invitation of our Prime Minister and signing the U.N. Migration Pact. More people equals more CO2.

  3. Tony Brumell // December 15, 2019 at 6:21 PM // Reply

    I am a climate change believer because i read incessantly every scientific paper i see and they are (including the IGPCC) unquestionably in agreement that the climate of the entire planet is degrading (From a human point of view ) I accept the potential climate benefits of a carbon tax to try to limit the amount of carbon based fuels that are burned.BUT ! I am concerned how the tax is applied.AS I understand it we are being charged “X” amount of dollars for each tonne of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere.I’m not sure the amount of CO2 per gigajoule is released but When I look at my Fortise bill I see that the carbon tax exceeds the amount charged for the NAT Gas used.It appears to be about 130%.Are we being missled somehow by gov’t or Fortis ? If you had to pay $ 1.30 tax on a $ ! .00 loaf of bread how happy would you be ? And I mean you would have to pony up $2.30 .This seems to exceed the value of the per tonne charge.My last Fortis bill charges me $ 18.12 for 11 7 GJ. Then it adds $ 23.24 for the carbon tax. The just to make maters worse they charge me $ 50 .88 to deliver the same quantity of gas. ( that’s 281 % higher than the actual gas used. I am suspicious that someone has slipped there decimal points. Have a look at you bill you will see the same thing. I don’t think a 128 % tax on anything is reasonable.At least they could be up front about it.

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