Steven Cohen: Why Carbon Taxes Aren't the Solution to Reducing Greenhouse Gases

On September 29, 2014, Steven Cohen, Executive Director of Columbia University's Earth Institute and faculty for the M.S. program in Sustainability Management published an op-ed on The Huffington Post titled "It's Time to Abandon the Delusion of a Carbon Tax."

In the wake of the recent climate talks at the United Nations, Cohen criticized the emphasis on carbon pricing. "I do not take seriously this effort to reduce greenhouse gases by raising the price of fossil fuels," he wrote. "No political leader responsible for ensuring the material well-being of his or her people in the modern global economy is going to willingly raise the price of something so central to that economy as the price of energy." He said, "We have other policy tools at our disposal that are politically feasible."

Rather, he called attention to what he believes is a more significant matter: "The real battle – and the one we should be fighting – is not over the economics of carbon, but over public funding of the basic research needed to make the transition to a fossil fuel-free economy." He wrote, "We need to lower the price of renewable energy directly and drive fossil fuels from the marketplace. Renewables need to be cheaper, more reliable and more convenient than fossil fuels. That should be the basic climate policy strategy pursued by the United States and the rest of the world."

Cohen said, "A carbon tax is an elegant policy poorly suited for our messy and inelegant political world."