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Guest Opinion by Karl Reitz, Ph.D., with Citizens Climate Education
Climate change is widely recognized as one of humanity’s greatest challenges. The solution is simple: reduce the release of carbon into the atmosphere by switching from fossil fuels to alternate energy sources. This will result in substantial changes that will not be easy. Will the cost of these changes be worse than the consequences of climate change?
Coal mines, and coal- and gas-fired power plants, would need to be closed. Oil and natural gas drilling on land and sea would stop. The vast infrastructure of supplying energy would have to change. We would no longer be able to use natural gas in our homes and offices. Large numbers of jobs would cease to exist.
On the other hand, new jobs would be created. The expansion of the solar and wind generation industries would increase dramatically. Plants to generate hydrogen would need to be built. Expansion of our electrical transmission infrastructure would need to be built. Factories to build batteries would need to be constructed, and workers would be needed to run them. Our homes, buildings and factories would have to be made more efficient. This alone would create millions of new jobs.
However, none of this will happen without intervention by governments, whether through regulation or incentives. Most economists favor incentives as the most efficient way to effect change. Alternate energy will be used if it costs less than traditional sources. Buildings will be made more efficient if doing so will cost less than leaving them inefficient. Incentives will come in the form of subsidies.
A carbon tax creates a market-based incentive for the economy to decrease its production and consumption of fossil fuels and make alternate fuels more competitive. Proceeds from the tax can flow back to the public, thereby creating an economic stimulus. Proceeds can also pay for necessary subsidies and support needed infrastructure changes.
Although no one can perfectly predict the overall consequences of these changes, it is clear that changing to a fossil fuel-free world would be positive, not just for the environment, but also for economic and physical health.
Karl Reitz is Ph.D. of Social Sciences and professor emeritus of Sociology and Mathematics at Chapman University.