On May 7, this paper reported on the effects of climate change in New England and on Maine in particular (“Global warming report warns of climate disruption in Maine, New England”). The overwhelming evidence that climate change is already impacting us and will continue to have substantial effects in the near and distant future means that we need to act now to curb carbon emissions.

The latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change concluded that the costs of curbing emissions now would only slow the normal global economic growth of 2.3 percent per year by .06 percent. Not addressing climate change is already affecting the economy and will have a greater effect on everything from agriculture to infrastructure the longer we wait.

According to both conservative and liberal economists, the most efficient way to address carbon emissions is through a market-based, revenue-neutral carbon tax. A revenue-neutral tax, as proposed by Citizens Climate Lobby, would be assessed as far upstream as possible (e.g., the mine or oil refinery) and return revenue directly to Americans by way of a monthly dividend payment. The tax would incentivize both industry and consumers to choose more sustainable energy options; the dividend payments to individuals would help to offset increased fuel costs.

A similar tax has been implemented successfully in British Columbia, and studies by Regional Economic Models, Inc., in California, Washington and Massachusetts have found that a revenue-neutral tax might both reduce emissions and boost the economy. At the same time, we will be reducing our dependence on foreign oil, strengthening our infrastructure and avoiding the worst (and most expensive) repercussions of unmitigated climate change — all of which will leave us with a more secure and sustainable way of life.

Caroline KarnesHallowell