Carbon Tax

BC mayors are asking the government to spend money collected from the carbon tax on ‘green’ projects. A great idea, but I would go further by asking for even higher carbon taxes. Wow, you say, higher taxes, great.

Ok, I do realize that most people think that taxes are bad—and higher taxes worse. If that is your opinion, please hear me out.

Even as dead bodies piled up in city streets, pre-industrial Europeans did not know the cause or solution to horrific epidemics that killed millions and destroyed the quality of life in many cities.  As a result, pit toilets continued to be built close to drinking water wells—a really bad idea.

But a scientist, Louis Pasteur, used a microscope to show that deadly and unseen bacteria existed in water that looked clean. As a result, local governments established a water tax to fund the disinfection of drinking water. As a result, people lived, the economy prospered, and cities thrived—and a great environmental and human crisis was stopped.

So after that experience, we now know that we should not pee into our drinking water. And in the same manner, we now need to stop ‘peeing’ carbon dioxide into the air as quickly as possible in order to prevent our climate, and our kid’s future, from being destroyed.

A water tax was used in Europe to provide healthy drinking water, in spite of opposition from property owners. And high carbon taxes are needed now to provide clean air, in spite of the constant messaging in the media that taxes are always bad. We must prevent the breakdown of our climate to allow our economy to thrive – just like providing clean drinking water did for those European cities.

Our supply of air is limited—if the earth was an onion, the atmosphere would be as thin as the last layer of skin. So we must not pollute our air; instead, we must phase out the burning of fossil fuels. A carbon tax is the simplest way to achieve this.

A carbon tax could be given back to individuals at year end (like a dividend). Or it could be spent on green projects to clean our air. Either way, it will encourage consumers to buy products using the least amount of oil or gas, because those products would be cheaper.

In BC, we have a small carbon tax. But we need a more comprehensive and larger carbon tax on all types of fossil fuels, at all points in the economy, and by all levels of government—federal, provincial and municipal.

So let your politicians know that you favour high carbon taxes. And if your neighbours or friends say you are nuts, tell them the story about those early Europeans who stopped dying when they started paying a water tax needed to disinfect their drinking water.

You can contact individual politicians or the provincial finance committee which is asking for public input about a carbon tax in BC – see

Peter Nix is an Environmental Scientist, retired Cowichan Carbon Buster who resides in Maple Bay, BC.