Oreskes Nails It

Posted: March 1, 2017

“Carbon pricing is the simplest and fairest way to reduce emissions,” said Dr. Naomi Oreskes, well-known author, scientist and lecturer on climate change, in a webinar co-hosted by PriceonCarbon.org and the League of Women Voters. “Either cap and trade or carbon tax can work well; both are known and established systems.”

“We shouldn’t get too worked up about the details,” she stressed, adding that getting carbon pricing in place, in whatever form is most politically feasible, is a step in the right direction.

Although there is very little chance of a federal price on carbon right now, several states and regions already have or are moving toward a price on carbon. Results show that the economy can even be stimulated by carbon pricing, giving competitive advantage by advancing more quickly in the renewable and energy efficiencies sectors.

Giving a background in the economics, Dr. Oreskes explained that the external costs caused by climate change (hurricanes, drought, agricultural disruption, sea level rise) are not reflected in the price of fossil fuels. But someone does pay that price. Economists recognize that external costs are a form of market failure. The most straightforward way to rectify the market failure is to put a price on carbon emissions.

Conservatives don’t like to admit market failure, but perhaps more importantly don’t want to see government intervention to rectify the failure. However, Judge Richard A. Posner, a well-known conservative thinker said, “Behavior that generates large external costs provides an apt occasion for government regulation.”

We are seeing a bit of political opening.  Republicans are recognizing that there is a need to remedy the market failure, and that the easiest way is carbon pricing.

In a final statement, Dr. Oreskes said that in addition to reducing emissions, “Carbon pricing maximizes industry flexibility and consumer choice.”  See a recording of her webinar and handouts here.

See Dr. Oreskes’ slides, and handouts provided in the session: Carbon Pricing Methods, Carbon Pricing in North America, and Carbon Pricing Resources.  A recording of the webinar is below, Dr. Oreskes presentation begins at 5:47 minutes.