Air pollution has real costs for all of us, from negative health effects (such as asthma), to climate change, to more severe weather and the damage it creates. We all suffer these effects and pay their costs while the polluters pay nothing. They are allowed to dump their pollution into our air for free. The carbon released into the atmosphere (mainly as carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels) costs us between $40 and $100 per ton and over 5 billion tons of it are poured into our air each year. This adds up to hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

We should put a tax on carbon pollution to help pay for its costs and also to create an incentive to reduce it. The revenue a carbon tax would produce could be used to foster renewable energy sources, to address climate change, to improve and expand mass transportation, or to fund other worthwhile activities.

Instead of investing in the fossil fuel industry – oil, coal, and gas – we should be divesting. Many of us are investing in the fossil fuel industry without evening knowing it. The government should stop using our tax money to provide incentives to fossil fuel companies. We all should ask pension funds, mutual funds, and university endowments we are connected with to divest their holdings in the fossil fuel industry and instead invest in renewable energy or other investments that don’t cause harm.

A carbon tax would put market forces in place that create a win-win: polluters would be paying for at least part of the cost of their pollution and would have an incentive to reduce pollution, while at the same time governments would have revenue to address the damage caused by pollution and to invest in renewable energy.

The air belongs to all of us. And we need clean air to live healthy lives and have a healthy planet. Polluters are fouling our air for free; they should pay the price through a carbon tax.

Implementing a carbon tax is the ninth of Ten Ideas to Save the Economy: The Big Picture presented by Robert Reich and MoveOn.org. (You can watch the 3 minute video at: https://www.facebook.com/moveon/videos/vb.7292655492/10152803963545493/?type=1&theater.)


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