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Carbon Tax: Climatically Useless

By Chip Knappenberger -- December 3, 2012

“No matter how much you pay with a carbon levy, virtually nothing is received climatically…. No matter the level of domestic action that we take, it will pale in comparison to the rapid expansion of carbon dioxide emissions in other parts of the world.”

How much global warming will result from U.S. emissions over the course of this century, and how much of that could be prevented by a carbon tax? These two questions have the same simple answer—virtually none. One or two tenths of a degree a century out with–and without–a carbon tax makes the whole climate debate a peculiar exercise.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that the earth’s average temperature will increase somewhere between 1.1°C and 6.4°C over the 21st century, depending on the assumed pathway of anthropogenic emissions (both greenhouse gases and aerosols) and the actual (but unknown) climate sensitivity.