If you believe in free market capitalism, you should believe in a carbon tax

You can think of it like the monthly fee you pay to your city to collect your garbage.  If that fee wasn’t collected, garbage would accumulate on your street and significantly devalue neighborhood property values.

The same tax is applied to tobacco products.  After decades of allowing tobacco companies to create and sell a product that took lives and generated billions in healthcare costs, we all finally agreed it was fair to make tobacco products responsible for the billions of dollars they cost society.

Oil, gas, and coal companies are the new tobacco. They are responsible for trillions of dollars in unjust damages to property values, lives, health risks and health expenses.

Data shows unequivocally that emissions over the past century have warmed the air and water by 2 degrees Fahrenheit – one of those degrees being in just the past 20 years. The next degree of warming is expected to occur in the next 15 years.

Every degree of warming can be connected to at least 20 mph increased wind speeds in hurricanes and significant increase in precipitation.  Hence, the winds that devastated the Bahamas during Hurricane Dorian would have been at least 40 mph weaker and flooding less catastrophic had it not been for the carbon emissions of the past 100 years.

Yes, there were devastating hurricanes occurring every 10 to 20 years, such as Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, but nowadays it is almost a yearly event. At our current rate of releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (35 billion tons per year), we are accelerating the changes.

I am a data-driven financial professional with no compensation for environmental research (other than satisfying intellectual curiosity). I was skeptical about whether humans contributed to the increase in carbon dioxide or whether it was a natural cycle.

I observed the measurements from Moana Loa indicating there were 2 trillion tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 1958, and now there are 3 trillion tons.  I verified numbers in the BP energy report (anyone can google this) that the extra 1 trillion tons can easily be accounted for by fossil fuel emissions.

I found scientific papers written by highly regarded physicists who have known for 200 years that the reason the Earth was 62 degrees warmer than the moon (while the same distance from the sun) is due to the 2 trillion tons of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. By adding the additional 1 trillion tons of fossil fuel emissions, we have created quite the oven!

There are health effects, too.

Chances are you have respiratory allergies/asthma or know someone who has it. Carbon dioxide is plant food, and fossil fuel emissions have increased the “plant food” in the air by 50 percent.

Scientific studies show that the additional carbon dioxide exacerbate ragweed pollen emissions by nearly triple, the same pollen that is responsible for most cases of respiratory infections. Hence, we can thank fossil fuel dependency for increased risk in our health.

I could write pages on the effects of warming waters on clean drinking water and ocean swimming conditions.  Warmer water fuels bacteria growth, red tide, blue-green algae, seaweed, and all those conditions that are infesting our beaches and hurting our tourism.

Once people realize that fossil fuel dependence has a huge cost to society, the solution is incredibly simple, TAX THE EMISSIONS!

We can choose to save 2 cents per kwh with coal and oil over solar and wind, or continue to pay 12 cents per kwh through our taxes in flood claims and FEMA relief packages. Alternatively, we can tax the polluters the 12 cents, which incentivizes the free market (without any regulations or incentives) to rapidly move to purchasing energy from clean renewable sources.

The net result is an increased consumer cost of around 2 cents/kw to choose renewables, but saving us 12 cents/kwh in the form of taxes, healthcare expense and property value loss.

Where would this carbon tax money go?  I’ll leave that for the Democrats and Republicans to fight over; it is NOT important.  As a financial professional, I can only vouch for the importance of a carbon tax to patch the current inefficiency in the free market.

The result will improve our economy while stabilizing the climate without ANY additional regulation.

David S. Vogel is a data mining and predictive modeling expert who has earned international recognition for his predictive modeling accuracy. He is CEO of Voloridge Investment Management.

This op-ed was featured by “The Invading Sea,” a collaboration of four South Florida media organizations — the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media.


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