We’ve borrowed from the future; a carbon tax is just the interest on that loan

Regarding a carbon tax, Andrew Coyne (who is in favour of such a tax) writes:

But Canadians don’t care what it means for the economy at large. They want to know what’s in it for them.

How about a planet that remains capable of supporting human life? Do we not owe that much to the next generation, to say nothing of the millions of people already made refugees by the effects of climate change? 

Regarding the battle against climate change in mere economic terms is, at this point, a fool’s game. The global economy as we know it will cease to exist in the event of catastrophic climate change. Of course, the global economy as we know it is also the primary driver of climate change, so it needs to change dramatically — perhaps even cease to exist in its current form — to make a meaningful dent in the damage that’s been done to our ecosystem.

A price on carbon is a pittance compared to what’s coming if we don’t make a real commitment to combat climate change — and then actually follow through on that commitment. 

The notion that Canada shouldn’t bother, because other countries aren’t cutting their emissions, is nihilism on a national scale.

I’m hardly alone in this rather stark assessment. Gregory Trencher, of the University of Tokyo, writes:

[…] the political and economic institutions of our civilisation are fixated on enjoying the present and unable to account for the consequences of our actions on tomorrow. This may be all too easily observed in our financial behaviour, where individuals, corporations and governments are forever borrowing from the future in order to improve the present.

In the same way, the fossil fuelled party of our capitalist global civilisation is in the midst of a financial and ecological borrowing frenzy from the future. And not only are the spoils of our mastery over nature enjoyed by only a minority of the planet, but in geological terms, they are being consumed within an extremely short time-span.

We’ve borrowed from the future for too long. A carbon tax would begin to pay the interest on that loan. The principal may be something only time — on a geological scale — can eliminate.