The Truth About CO2 and the Failure of Carbon Taxes


By Dr. Tim Ball and Tom Harris

The United Nations and many American and Canadian governments at all levels are increasing or proposing what they call ‘carbon taxes.’ But they are not really taxing carbon, which is, of course, a solid. They are actually taxing carbon dioxide (CO2), a gas. 

This is one of the many ways that climate alarmists have distorted the language of the debate to frighten the public and discourage critical thinking. After all, if they called it a carbon dioxide tax, many people would remember from grade school that CO2 is an invisible, benign, trace gas essential for plant photosynthesis. Calling it ‘carbon’ conjures up subconscious images of something dark and dangerous, like soot, which really is carbon.

Regardless, science and empirical evidence show none of these so-called carbon taxes are in any way necessary since there is no need to reduce CO2 emissions. It is not causing global warming or climate change and it is certainly not pollution. It is, pure and simple, a tax grab that increases the cost of living and is especially hard on the poor.  

Here are some basic facts about CO2:

  • It is only 4% of the so-called greenhouse gases; water vapor (H2O) is 95%.
  • The human contribution of CO2 to the atmosphere is only 3.4% of the total CO2 in the atmosphere. 
  • The range of atmospheric CO2 in the last 600 million years is from a high of 7000 parts per million (ppm) to a low of 270 ppm 120 years ago.
  • CO2 is essential for plant life on the planet. They are most efficient at 1200 ppm, the average level for the last 250 million years. At current levels (about 400 ppm) plants are malnourished. 
  • The only place where CO2 increase causes a temperature increase is in the computer models which are built with the assumption that CO2 drives warming. Records of real-world observational data show that temperature increases before CO2 increases. Not surprisingly, all official climate model predictions since 1990 have been wrong. Yet governments cite these models as substantiation for severe actions to ‘fight climate change.’

Despite all this, governments push ahead with carbon tax plans. The British Columbia provincial government implemented North America’s first carbon tax, applicable to transportation, home heating and electricity. It was created through a Climate Action Committee (CAC) that produced a Climate Action Plan. That plan is now 10 years old so the results are instructive, indeed a warning, to other governments with similar ideas.

The plan failed to meet its basic objectives to reduce CO2 emissions. It claimed a reduction in Refined Petroleum Product used, but that was already declining 4 years before the tax. The continued reduction after the tax was introduced was not because of reduced mileage driven. 

The huge, real cost of the BC tax, especially for the poor, was analyzed in detail by Willis Eschenbach in an article titled “Why Revenue Neutral isn’t, and Other Costs of the BC Tax.” The bureaucratic costs of collecting and redistributing the money means there is a net cost to society. Any tax costs one segment of society even if another segment benefits. It is simply a government-imposed redistribution of wealth. And for what? Eschenbach found, “both total and per-capita road fuel (diesel plus gasoline) [consumption] have increased since the [BC] tax was passed.”

In 2016 Canada produced 1.71% of world CO2 production. Consequently, any reductions Canada makes are of no consequence to world production. China and other developing countries are building hundreds of coal plants, with consequent soaring CO2 production, and show no signs of slowing down. They know that alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power have no chance of satisfying their skyrocketing energy needs.

By promoting carbon taxes, politicians from developed countries are sticking their fingers in the taxpayer’s eye. There is no scientific, economic, or financial justification, yet the consequences are devastating as the cost of living will soar and economies collapse because they will not be able to compete with more sensible nations which eschew the tax. This is the fate that awaits all jurisdictions that introduce Green Agendas that include subsidies to alternate energies, regulations to reduce CO2 emissions, and monetary devices, such as a carbon tax. 

Dr. Tim Ball is an environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba. Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.

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