As Americans are becoming more informed on the causes of climate change, they are also getting a better idea on what needs to be done about it and what part they have to play. They are also forming some pretty strong opinions on what the government ought to be doing in order to encourage, or in some cases force, changes to a cleaner energy supply.
The government has a couple of tools it can use mitigating climate change. One way is to “encourage” change by taxation, that is, by carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems. The other way is to “force” change by regulation, such as the recent Corporate Average Fuel Economy [CAFE] regulations on vehicle fuel economy, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the automotive sector.
A recent poll conducted by Duke University indicates that 64% of Americans are in favor of mitigating climate change by regulations controlling greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, factories, and automobiles. On the other hand, just 29% are in favor of taxation.
“The survey shows strikingly high numbers of Americans accept that the climate is changing, but support for market-based approaches such as a carbon tax and a system of tradable emissions are not popular among survey respondents,” said Sarah Adair, co-author and associate in research at Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.
Part of the problem is that most people have little to no knowledge or understanding of how taxation schemes would work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reflected by the 36% of Americans who had no opinion either way. Another part of the problem with taxation, though, is that it’s too easy for large companies to find loopholes to exploit.
The market-based approach to mitigating climate change leaves too much to the lawyers, in my opinion.