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Reagan may have had answer

“What would Ronnie do?” is the question posed and answered by George P. Shultz recently in the Washington Post.
Shultz, after economics professorships at MIT and the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, served as labor secretary and head of the treasury in the Nixon and Ford administrations, and as secretary of state during both terms of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
The article relates a 1980s experience, when scientists warned of damage to the ozone layer from certain industrial chemicals. There were doubters, Shultz notes, but also agreement that allowing the damage to continue would bring catastrophe.
The president chose “not to argue much with the doubters, but include them in the provisions of an insurance policy.”
U.S. industry “turned on its entrepreneurial juices,” developed replacements for the ozone-destroying chemicals, and an international treaty banning them was implemented. Reagan called the treaty “a magnificent achievement,” and it came along in the nick of time, Shultz observes, because, “in retrospect, the scientists who were worried were right.”
He reviews some of the scientific evidence which, to him, indicates need of another “insurance policy,” to solve global warming.
Arctic sea ice, he notes, shrank by 48,000 square kilometers annually during the mid-decades of the last century, by 87,000 square kilometers annually in its last two decades, and 148,000 square kilometers a year since before the turn of this century.
As water replaces ice and sunlight is absorbed instead of reflected back into space, more heat is retained in the planetary environment. Similar changes are occurring in Greenland and the Antarctic.
Although some doubters proclaim a “global stall in temperature increase over the past decade,” Shultz continues, the added heat is still retained, buried in the oceans, as carbon emissions continue.
Throughout at least 800,000 years of climate history, as has been definitively documented in Antarctic ice core research, the temperature on planet Earth and the level of greenhouse gases in its atmosphere have “marched in lockstep.”
From “simple and clear observations” such as these, he concludes the reality of global warming, its carbon emissions causation, and that “those who say otherwise will wind up being mugged by reality.”
To avoid what will be mostly bad, costly and even catastrophic consequences of global warming, he asks, “Why don’t we follow Reagan’s example and take out an insurance policy?”
This he proposes in the form of a tax on carbon, principally, so that the “costs imposed on the community are borne by the sources of energy that create them.”
With a market-based approach in preference over laws and regulations, Shultz predicts, U.S. industry will again show its creativity, help more quickly develop alternative, non-carbon sources of energy and solve the global-warming problem.
The national Citizens’ Climate Lobby organization has been advocating a somewhat similar policy.
Revenue neutral, all funds from a fee on fossil fuels returned to American households on an equitable basis, it would cut carbon emissions by more than 50 percent in two decades.
Tennessee’s senators should be encouraged to support such a plan.