The above photo is typically what we see in articles urging us to save the planet from an imminent climate crisis by quickly ending “carbon pollution” from fossil fuels. Such photos of chimneys belching large clouds are misleading because carbon dioxide is invisible. But showing chimneys emitting an invisible gas would not be scary. And scary sells.
A Canadian tax on carbon dioxide emissions is highly controversial among politicians, but less so among economists. My review of the applicable tax legislation showed me that it is a well drafted law. At the current tax level a fully rebated tax may be justified as a step in the right direction because that will help Canada to meet its Paris Agreement commitments. But our government’s justifying its carbon dioxide tax on the “polluter pay principle” are both misleading and confusing.
Calling CO2 a Pollutant is Misleading
It is misleading because CO2 is not “pollution” in the normal way that word has usually been used, for example, by the World Health Organization [WHO. ] The WHO reports that annually some 4.2 million people die from outdoor air pollution and 3.8 million from household air pollution (total of 8 million). Most of the developing world breathes polluted air, especially indoor air, polluted by burning animal dung, wood and charcoal for cooking and heating. WHO lists the outdoor and indoor air pollutants that represent the greatest threat, but CO2 is not on that list. Typical pollutants are, e.g. lead, particulate matter, ground level ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide.
Unlike toxic pollutants in the air in developing countries, 100% of the people in the world breathe air with carbon dioxide in it. None of us get sick or die from breathing the CO2 in the air. CO2 is found in every soft drink and beer. I would hate to think that when I drink my glass of soda water or my beer, I am drinking toxic pollution.