Our climate future lies in the past

The shambolic state of climate change discourse in Australia (and elsewhere) has left us largely focusing on electricity suppliers and technological solutionism.

But as American economist John Cochrane points out, the answer probably lies less in contraptions and arbitrary interventions than old ways of living:

…a carbon tax is the only way to change behavior. The answer to energy savings isn’t as much new technology as in old behaviors. Turn the lights off. Take fewer trips. Turn the heat down. Move nearer your work. Carpool. Without a carbon tax there is no way for the average bleeding heart Palo Alto climate worrier to realize that one trip to Europe is like driving a car for 10,000 miles. (Planes get about 80 passenger miles per gallon — but it’s a lot of miles to Europe.)

In order to incentivise these behavioural changes we need to make the cost of carbon emissions more salient.

Granted, it won’t work in every sector thanks to varying elasticities of demand. But it’s a start.

Whether or not you think the proceeds should be given straight back as a dividend (or some other mechanism to ameliorate compounded inequality), it’s [past] time to tax carbon.