Carbon Tax Could Trigger Food Shortages by 2050

first_imgStay on target Climate change is here to stay. And if we want future generations to survive on this planet (at least until they lower ticket prices for commercial flights to Mars), we need to come up with a fix—and fast.One idea, favored among economists for reducing global-warming emissions, is so-called carbon pricing: charging folks for the right to expend carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.But this option is “naive,” according to physicist and science writer Mark Buchanan.Citing a new study, Buchanan warned in an op-ed for Bloomberg that a significant carbon tax “could trigger food shortages by 2050 for many of the poorest people in the world, and even be worse than climate change continuing completely unabated.”The research paper, published late last month in the journal Nature Climate Change, points out the obvious: crop production is in grave danger, thanks to warmer and drier conditions.But efforts to mitigate climate change through comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions reductions may also “negatively affect food security,” the study said.A colorless, odorless gas, carbon dioxide occurs naturally in Earth’s atmosphere as a trace gas. It is used in fire extinguishers and air guns, as a chemical feedstock and solvent in decaf coffee; companies add it to water and carbonated beverages, and it makes for one hell of a magic show when frozen solid.Sounds harmless, right? Wrong: CO2 is the most significant long-lived greenhouse gas, rapidly increasing its concentration and leading to global warming and ocean acidification.Some analysts have suggested levying a tax on the carbon content of fuels, in hopes of reducing the harmful levels of CO2 emissions and decelerating climate change.A number of countries—including Singapore, Australia, Denmark, France, Norway, and the UK—have implemented carbon or energy taxes, typically imposed on energy products and motor vehicles, rather than carbon dioxide emissions directly.Though the US is one of the few large, industrialized nations that does not implement a tariff, many American corporations have set an internal price on carbon. In 2010, Montgomery County, Maryland passed the nation’s first county-level carbon tax.But many scientists believe this is the wrong approach.“By 2050, stringent climate mitigation policy, if implemented evenly across all sectors and regions, would have a greater negative impact on global hunger and food consumption than the direct impacts of climate change,” the research paper said. “The negative impacts would be more prevalent in vulnerable, low-income regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where food security problems are already acute.”As Buchanan pointed out, these are “only estimates,” and there is “plenty of uncertainty in this analysis.”Still, the study is a good reminder of how creative we’ll need to be in finding ways to deal with global warming.“In addition to emissions reductions, we’re going to need wise agricultural policies, stronger social safety nets, and better international cooperation,” Buchanan said.And probably some help from Captain Planet.Climate change has far-reaching consequences: from rising sea levels to a shortage of iconic brunch drinks. Find out more about the frightening future of our planet here.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Amazon Employees Join Sept. 20 Global Climate WalkoutResearchers Transform CO2 Into Liquid Fuel last_img

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