I liked this Tyler Cowen post so much I decided to quote the whole thing:
A new Cato study, by Indur Goklany, suggests that instead of carbon taxes we should spend money on better water policy, drought prevention, anti-malarials, sea level protection, and so on. In general we should make the world as wealthy as possible. Here is the link, the piece is intelligent throughout and well worth reading.
Two questions suggest themselves. First, is the choice either/or? I don't see arguments against a revenue-neutral carbon tax. Second, is there really enthusiasm for the proposed measures or is the real intent to do little or nothing on carbon? Since this is both a Goklany piece and a Cato piece, an interesting question arises: who exactly is now obliged to push for anti-malarial foreign aid? Cato? Goklany? Either/or? Both? Or is it enough to just make the comparison once and leave it at that?
One way to raise the money necessary to "spend money on better water policy, drought prevention, anti-malarials, sea level protection, and so on" would, of course, be through a carbon tax or (more politically realistic) an auction of tradable carbon emissions permits. Meanwhile, there's an issue of consistency here. The style of argument here is don't do X because if we did Z, which costs as much as X, we would see more benefits. That's a very stringent standard to meet. Can Goklany's own argument meet it? Is collaborating with libertarian think tanks to oppose carbon restrictions really the most efficacious method of boosting spending on anti-malarials? As best I can tell, historically, Cato's only been interested in malaria as a pretext to complain about DDT regulations. Now I suppose we can add carbon regulations to the list. But actual malaria-related advocacy doesn't seem to be on the agenda.
Why not say we should eliminate all these subsidies and tax breaks for oil, gas, and coal firms and use that money to finance "better water policy, drought prevention, anti-malarials, sea level protection, and so on"? Meanwhile, if the planet just keeps getting hotter and hotter with more and more carbon in the atmosphere forever surely at some point it overwhelms are capacity to adapt.