The Grid Part 2: Carbon Pricing

Michael talks with University of Michigan Professor Barry Rabe all about carbon pricing, and how it contributes to lowering our emissions.

Well, I'm in over my head. No one told me trying to keep my footprint ball was harder than I thought it could be. I'm in over my head. What do I really need? Trying to save the planet over someone, please save me trying to save the planet over someone. Please save me.

Michael (00:25):
Welcome in over my head. I'm Michael Bartz. My guest today is Dr. Barry Rabe. Dr. Rabe is a professor of public policy and environmental policy at the Ford school university of Michigan. His work examines, the political feasibility and durability of environmental and energy policy addressing climate change in the United States to other nations. This includes carbon pricing policy as examined in his 2018 book. Can we price carbon? He's also the author of statehouse and greenhouse, which won the Linton Codwell award for his contribution to environmental policy and politics. Barrys is a recipient of four American political science association awards in honor of his research and publications. And he has Reagan literally quoted in leading media outlets, including the New York Times, the economist national public radio, and E&E news. Welcome over my head professor Rabe.

Barry (01:12):
Michael, thanks so much for inviting me.

Michael (01:14):
So in talking about decarbonizing the electricity grid, one thing that was bound to come up was carbon pricing. If I said the word carbon tax, some people might cringe day. I'd like to have an educational conversation about what this intervention is and if it's effective in reducing our emissions. So to begin, let's assume our listeners have never heard of this term, what exactly is carbon pricing?

Barry (01:37):
Sure. That's a great question. The idea of carbon pricing has been kicking around for many decades, develop principally in the discipline of economics to think about ways to create incentives for people to change or adjust their behaviour, responding to price signals. What that means is in a case of a carbon price that you alter the price of a good or assumption of say electricity linked to the amount of carbon-climate damage that's being done. We do this in other areas, probably more familiar is tobacco, a legal product, legal to produce and use certainly in the United States and Canada, but we know it poses a substantial health risk to consume it. And so governments certainly all over North America, but all over the world have added taxes, tobacco, excise taxes, or whatever you want to call them to kind of increase that price and to discourage use in consumption, doesn't eliminate smoking, but it's thought in many places to have really driven down smoking rates.

And of course, in many places, those prices on tobacco are, are quite high. So that's one possible model, but you know, we use taxes all the time to try to not just raise money for the government, but to change incentives, change behaviours. And this is one of the reasons why carbon pricing has kind of caught on some efforts to try to use this in other areas of environmental policy in Michigan, where I live for over 45 years, there's been a price. Every time we buy a bottle or a soda or something like it, it's known as a deposit. We don't like to pay it necessarily, but it's added to the price and then we actually get a rebate on it when we take it to be reused or recycled.

Michael (03:29):
So with carbon pricing, like the cans and bottles, do people get money back from carbon pricing?

Barry (03:35):
That's really up to the parties, the legislators, the political heads designing and opens up the question of, if you impose a price that produces money revenue, how do you allocate that or use it in the case of the bottle deposit mechanisms that we're both familiar with? Usually, the money goes to an entity and comes back. Then when you return the empty bottle, that's one option to kind of rebate or return money in some mechanism, but there's a near-infinite number of possible ways. You could spend that revenue. And we're seeing really in North America, but around the world, an ever-growing range of ways that governments use those funds in, in some cases returning it to citizens in other cases to very specific and tailored kinds of projects.

Michael (04:26):
Okay. And, and what sort of things have carbon pricing attached to them?

Barry (04:31):
I think for energy purposes, a gasoline tax is an interesting analog to a tobacco tax. It's an ex-size tax X at the point of production, usually the number of pennies per gallon, or leader of gasoline, a common tradition. There has been to use that as, a basic fund for transportation infrastructure repair, which has been a huge issue in the United States because we've been so slow to increase our gasoline tax, but that's one comparative model, but you could in the carbon price arena, look at this across the board. Usually, when we say carbon price, we're thinking not just gasoline, but also coal, natural gas oil, and you might adjust or peg that price depending on the amount of car carbon that's being released are the total amount of climate damage, because there are variations depending upon which fossil fuel that we're, we're talking about. When we go into carbon pricing, it moves beyond the specific product, like a gallon of gasoline or a tank of gasoline or a pack of cigarettes and going into something that's much bigger and literally involves are forms of fossil fuels.

Michael (05:44):
Yeah. And, and so that's, those decisions are made at, at the government level, is that correct?

Barry (05:48):
That's right. In theory, you can design ballot propositions, certainly, in the US, there are many mechanisms for this in Canada as well, but generally, when we look at tax issues, those are powers held by parliament legislatures, possibly with the involvement of executives, but come through normal put for traditional political channels

Michael (06:09):
Overall with carbon pricing or carbon taxes, how much of an impact do they have in, in lowering our overall greenhouse gas submissions?

Barry (06:17):
I would say thus far, the impact has been pretty modest. Many places around the world don't have them or operate them at a very, very modest, low level. Mexico has a very small carbon tax. So technically they have one, but it's at such a level it's hard to see that it would change or alter anyone's behaviour that people might even not know that it exists. So this is one where there's been a lot of theoretical work. What would happen if there was political courage to do it less experience in actually carrying that at a consequential or significant level? Although we are beginning to see at least in some places around the world, perhaps first and most notably the European Union efforts to set much more rigorous or robust carbon prices and can kind of begin to get a sense of how this might work. And of course, Canada is in the middle of a major transition to take a series of early provincial experiments in British Columbia and Quebec to develop that into a federal framework and rather substantially through the years of the remaining in this decade to reach a higher level.

So, you know, hopefully when we have our next conversation, perhaps a few years down the road, we'll have more evidence about what actually happens with these, but for the most part, thus far, they're sort of new being phased in or are really pretty modest or almost symbolic in scope. And of course, this is always a challenge in federal or multi-level government systems and not just taxes. How much variability variation do you want to allow between in the Canadian case, provinces and territories or of American states or local or tribal governments? We accept many levels of variation in healthcare policy, education policy, again, in theory, a carbon price sets a national or continental or even a global framework. So you can't just go across the border and maybe get your gasoline from another jurisdiction, but that's tricky to do. And my goodness, a, an ongoing challenge for climate policy pricing or in places like the US and Canada is how do you deal with this huge decentralization of energy production and use and the fact that both carbon prices, even within the Canadian context that we've been discussing, but also many regulatory provisions standards will vary somewhat from state to state province, to province, region, to region.

Even when we look at say Canada's very active role in areas like methane reduction, there are differences between what Alberta is allowed to do under federal law versus Saskatchewan versus British Columbia. It's the same methane, but that's part of the reality of having very decentralized political systems as we tend to have in North America. But my goodness, many other places around the world

Michael (09:26):
Overall with carbon pricing or carbon taxes being implemented are the countries who are doing it. Are they seeing people reducing they're of that, to that particular thing like coal or natural gas or gasoline is, is that effective in that way?

Barry (09:41):
I think we are beginning to see some early indications and signs from that, including some of the earlier examples that I mentioned in the case of the European Union. This is a continental-wide system known as ETS. So the emissions trading system of the European union that cuts across the EU, but we also certainly can see it when we look for example, at SCANDA countries, Norway, Sweden, and others, that more than 30 years ago adopted fairly robust carbon tax. They were really the pioneers on this and that tax along with a lot of other things that they have been doing in those nations have either contained or served to reduce their greenhouse gases from what they would, would likely have been. So I think the the European cases are very interesting, but we can also begin to look at some of the Canadian examples or those that exist on the two coasts of the United States that are trying to move in the same direction.

Michael (10:43):
Okay. Yeah. Let's, let's talk a bit more about that. So in Canada, there are varying levels of acceptance of carbon taxes. What are things like in the States?

Barry (10:51):
Things are always tricky and messy in the United States and climate policy is no exception like the Canadians in some respects, the US has struggled for decades, including periods when Democrats who tend to lean more toward climate than the Republican party are in control. As at the present, the US has really struggled mightily since the late eighties or early 1990s, when the climate started to hit the agenda to design and develop what would be a coherent federal or national framework, whether that's regulatory pricing or anything else. And if you've been watching the US, since earlier in 2021, the arrival of an all-democratic Congress, there were great expectations and ambitions for kind of a non-carbon pricing strategy. Only small portions of that have gotten through are very divisive, divided political systems. And it's not clear what's going to happen before the midterm elections, where we may have a shift in government, but in the US, there is not a national carbon pricing strategy that has been adopted where we've seen carbon pricing emerge.

Thus far as I was mentioning, suggesting just a moment ago is in our states like Canadian provinces under the US constitution, American states are given enormous latitude for setting tax rates, creating tax and pricing incentives and engaging a very wide range of environmental and energy issues. And so a lot of climate jurisdiction in the US is shared between Washington DC, but state governments. What we've seen amongst coastal states is an effort to try to build or develop some form of a carbon pricing strategy, not taxes per se, but something is known as cap trade, which, which we can perhaps discuss a bit by this mechanism. Something that started in New Hampshire, tiny little New Hampshire almost 20 years ago has spread in the Northeast. It includes the New England states. It includes some bigger states like Massachusetts, New York has expanded in recent years to include Virginia May continue to expand further.

That puts a, a kind of a cap, if you will, overall power sector emissions in those states. And it uses a mechanism that's somewhat flexible and was used in the US to deal with sulphur dioxide emissions in the 1990s, in part in response to concerns that Canadians were raising about the cross-border shifting, of sulphur emissions from US factories to Canada, a similar model of trading where credits are auctioned off every quarter in those states, the cap of emissions reduction keeps coming down over time. And the price comes from the fact that you have to bid. If you're using natural gas or oil or coal for electricity, you have to bid to be able to allowed to do that. That money then goes into a trust fund that is then returned to the state. So on the Northeast, the Northeast, even at the Atlantic seaboard of the US, we have our own version in the electricity sector of a carbon pricing system.

It's known as RGGI an acronym for regional greenhouse gas initiative. On the west coast probably better known is the California cap and trade initiative started more than 15 years ago or launched at that point. It started with the electricity sector Michael and then has begun to expand to transportation or, and other kinds of emissions industrial. This is one where California because California looms so large in American politics, actually sets up partnerships with other global governments. California has looked for partners outside the United States and has a very robust and active trading relationship with Quebec, literally overseeing the regulated sectors and trading emissions and trading dollars and all of the rest in that way, with some interest in expanding that and Washington state right across from British Columbia is gonna be joining that initiative in the next year or so. So those are the two big, biggest examples from the US, unlike the Canadian system, which has been nursed and developed and expanded federally or on a national basis.

Michael (15:21):
So we talked a bit about the carbon tax and what we were describing there was, was a cap and trade. If I'm understanding that correctly?

Barry (15:26):
That's right.

Michael (15:27):
With cap and trade, it seems almost like it might be more effective because it's not putting the onus on the individuals and looking at the price of the gas at the pump, it's kind of done behind the scenes. Is that, a bigger change than a straight tax?

Barry (15:42):
An interesting one to think about. And of course, even when you talk about the carbon tax, again, we're gonna be most familiar with things like that. Gasoline X I size tax, or the tobacco tax or the tax on a bottle of alcohol, you also can put carbon price upstream at the point of production in places like Alberta and North Dakota that are actually producing the gas. You can do it at different levels. There's that kind of flexibility. But I think your point about cap and trade is very well taken because the cost is really worn at the electric utility level where electricity is being produced. Now it's possible that those costs get passed down to consumers. Each of those states in the US that participates in RGGI or for at California, they don't just set their own rates. They have to go through state regulatory processes. And so we don't know exactly how those costs might be passed down, but it is a little different level and arrangement interestingly, in the US anyway, it's that cap trade model, which has had a little more cache than the carbon tax because at least to this point, no American state has yet adopted a carbon tax.

Michael (16:57):
Oh, okay. Interesting. And, and I feel like just psychologically, if, if you say the word tax people have that negative association, but if it's just a cap and trade system, then maybe they don't, if they don't understand, or if it, if it's framed differently, then maybe that would make it a bit easier to swallow.

Barry (17:13):
Well, you know, and, and pricing of energy is a very sensitive issue. Although here, you know, it's interesting to think about gasoline versus electricity in many parts of the world, it's hard to drive very far and not know what gasoline prices are, because we're all familiar with those very, very big signs. It's something that people are aware of and sensitive to, you know, even president Biden and Senate Democrats in the last 48 hours have begun to talk about suspending the existing gasoline tax to kind of bring costs down because of the inflation issues that we're having. Electricity is something that comes in a bill once a month or once a quarter. It's less clear that people are as aware of how much electricity costs. And so it's interesting to think about how imposing a price or a regulation in different spheres might influence our thinking. But certainly, there are probably some differences between how aware we are and how we respond to prices for day-to-day transportation versus electricity or energy costs for day-to-day heating or powering things up.

Michael (18:19):
So on that note, what are Americans' views, on carbon pricing?

Barry (18:24):
Generally, I think it's safe to say that Americans are divided on this, especially when you look at surveys and polling. Usually, we see a pattern, however, you describe a carbon price and a survey question, and this has been true for some time or a specific tax or what, whatever it's going to be. You never see overwhelming support. You see the support that's greatest amongst Democrats in independence, lowest amongst Republicans. And those divides that if anything only increased in the last 10 or 15 years as the US has had this deeper and deeper divide between those parties. So that's very much the case. One thing though that really does change the response to survey questions is when you go beyond saying, would you support a tax or a price, and then extend that question to say, and the revenue is going to be used in this way.

And when you do that, that probably is a fair way to ask the question. The numbers really do begin to shift depending upon the ways in which you're going to utilize that money. And for all of the options, there are two things that seem to really increase support. One is the kind of revenue return or rebate or dividend system or whatever it is that seems to increase public support. But I would say the greatest support that we've seen through in the US is to take money from a tax and a price and link it to transition costs for next-generation energy, whether that's an investment in renewables, energy efficiency, helping individuals or organizations transition toward cleaner energy sources that usually gets the biggest bump up. And interestingly in the US where we've had more than 10 Northeastern states and California at this for some time, most of the money from those cap and trade auctions is used in some kind of energy transition.

Those smaller Northeastern states have used that as a kind of trust fund, if you will, to cover all kinds of energy, transition issues and costs in a few cases, it does help low-income customers adjust to transition issues. But a lot of it it's covering energy transition kinds of issues in question so, in the US, that seems to have had the largest base, although again, nationally, we've never created one of these. And so we just don't know what would be most popular or how durable any of that would be if the US ever were to create one.

Michael (21:01):
And that makes sense. Cause I feel like a lot of the negativity around it is that maybe this money is being used for something else or it's made up or it's just not being used effectively. So I'm, I'm glad to hear that people are supportive when it's being used for the appropriate things.

Barry (21:16):
This is part of what makes, you know, from an American perspective, watching the Pan-Canadian framework play out because under those terms, every province, every territory must adopt a carbon price, but it gets some choice. It can pick cap and trade or a carbon tax. It has some latitude in terms of how it's going to use that revenue. And some of those decisions could be made almost exclusively by provinces and territories if they agree to cooperate with the principle of a price. So in the case of British Columbia, which has been at this for a long time, it started in 2007 under a liberal government. The idea has been to return that money to the citizenry through common tax cuts, Quebec, by contrast, for some of its money into energy transition costs, that's a conversation taking place throughout Canada. Although the kicker here is my understanding is that for provinces that refuse to cooperate with Ottawa on this, then the federal government comes in.

It's called the backstop and the federal government imposes the price, but they return the money to the citizenry. Every citizen gets a rebate or a check for their share of this, this total completely bypass provincial political authority. So in the US, this one is being watched with great interest. And of course, there are other systems for doing this as, as well, but that's a little bit of a North America take on how this revenue return piece is not an ironclad rule that proves one way works best, but it's an important complement to the question of gee, do we have the political capacity to actually develop a price? And does it make a difference in the public imagination if they know how that money's gonna be used?

Michael (23:09):
So do you see the state it's implementing kind of that pan can of framework? Have you ever seen that as a possibility?

Barry (23:16):
You know, Michael, there was quite a bit of interest in that in the last year in the run-up to this Congress. I think it's unlikely that it's going to pass and be adopted in some ways unexpectedly a fee on met, not carbon, but another very, very potent greenhouse gas did pass the US house of representatives. It would've actually set a very high price about $1,500 per ton of methane. And then scale that up over time. It doesn't look ultimately like that is going to pass the Senate. And just because of the huge political challenges we have with climate in the US under any terms, still not clear as I was mentioning earlier, just how much might pass before the close on this Congress, which is less than a year away now. So we just don't have direct experience with that. And yet the idea of some kind of a fee or a tax on carbon does continue to pop up in various sectors. I was literally in Santa Fe, New Mexico earlier this month. And while I was there, a couple of legislators introduced a bill that would cover a lot of the costs of an energy transition in New Mexico through some kind of a fee system or would give authority to the state to set a fee, on energy. So the idea I think, continues to percolate, but the politics remain very, very tricky. Certainly in the United States,

Michael (24:39):
We've talked a bit about some of the more successful countries or provinces that have implemented carbon pricing. Are there any total flops that someone tried to do, carbon pricing? It just didn't work that maybe we should try to avoid in the future.

Barry (24:53):
I think that we have seen in some places, a backlash to creating different climate policies, including carbon pricing. Obviously, if you set up a climate policy where you want to achieve a staged or accelerated transition away from one energy source to others, you wanna send clear enduring or durable policies and signals. You don't wanna start for a year or two and then pull back. It just complicates things, probably wastes a lot of time and may do damage to the climate in the process. And we've seen some real backlash to early state efforts to, in some cases, try to join forces with California. There was a Midwestern initiative about a decade ago called the Midwest greenhouse gas reduction accord that tried to create a regional system. And those largely collapsed before they were even put together and initiated, and a real challenge that we faced both for pricing, but for climate policy more generally is how do you design policies that can be effective over time, but also sustain and build political support.

And so this is a really challenging one, again, especially on something like energy, particularly in the transportation fuel sector, as we were discussing where people are aware of the price, there's a lot of sensitivity, and this is a challenge. And I think this has fueled if you will, the search for other mechanisms like regulatory tools and the like that may actually be more expensive or costly to get the job to on. But if people don't see those costs as much, maybe they're easier to tolerate or accept. Then we get into questions of how effective they are.

Michael (26:37):
And so along those lines, we can talk a bit about complimentary sort of policies or, or regulations that kind of go in hand in hand with, with carbon pricing. Can you talk a bit about that?

Barry (26:49):
I think the C-word of complementary is so important. Many economists, many global leaders, 2025 or 30 years ago, just assume that we would move inexorably toward a world in which carbon pricing did the job was created on an international scale would be implemented and transition us out of this problem. The political reality is far far more complicated. And really even in countries where we have some semblance of a carbon price or even a fairly significant one, those are also the jurisdictions that are statistically more likely to deny other climate policies, hopefully, that we're cooperatively together. We do see some, some real evidence here, but certainly, in theory, the idea of setting a price on carbon can be a natural complement to other kinds of initiatives. If the goal is to get us off of fossil fuels setting that price can discourage use, and then it sets up other kinds of mechanisms, whether those are subsidies to purchase cleaner equipment for transportation or pursue cleaner electricity and the, like the whole movement toward EVs and other kinds of, of subsidies, you can use different tools like phasing out or tightening regulation on carbon or other greenhouse gas emissions.

And so I think realistically going forward, I really don't think we are going to live in a world in which the only thing we do on climate is a mega carbon price. I'm also not persuaded that we're just gonna edge carbon pricing entirely, let markets set prices, and then rely only on these other tools. And I think the jurisdictions that are most ambitious and in many respects, most creative and best poised to, really deal with their share of the climate crisis, going forward are ones that have found some kind of blending going back to your term tools that are complimentary toward one another. And this is true of what we do in most areas of environmental policy, energy policy. We look for a good mesh or connection going back to that tobacco example that we discussed earlier, you do not see the huge decline in smoking rates in places like the US without tobacco pricing, but there were advertising restrictions, information campaigns, tough restrictions imposed on the production of tobacco and on tobacco companies in many respects, it's a huge health problem to this day, but a huge public health success story over the last 40 years, if you look at declining smoking and even with lung cancer and emphysema rates, that's an example of policy complementary rather than relying on one policy as a, a single bullet to solve a very, very complicated problem like the climate crisis.

Michael (29:36):
With carbon pricing, I would have to assume that once we've made a transition to more renewable transportation and heating our homes and such, I would have to assume there would be less carbon pricing because we've already brought that down. Wouldn't that be the case?

Barry (29:50):
Oh, certainly if you move to a point where the role of carbon-based energy sources is declining the revenue for, from that declines over time, you could certainly be looking at a phase-out just as cold might be phased out and with it, then oil and natural gas. That's potentially part of the traction of this. You get in there, let the price and these complimentary policies do their thing, bridge that transition. And then you begin to also look at other issues, challenges of transition, or just transition for individuals who work in those sectors who have been providing us with energy for years or decades, entire careers. How do we think about allowing or supporting those people to transition effectively into other pursuits and possibly even using some of the revenues from a carbon price as it declines to play a role there? But certainly, this is something that can be in flux over time. Although the general thinking has been well, you're still heavily dependent upon the fossil fuel source. You want to keep the at price at a reasonably high level and possibly be increasing it over time, much the way the Canadians are doing, trying to take it from $50 a ton by the middle of this decade to $170, I believe per ton, Canadian by the end of this decade, which would be a, a huge upward swipe.

Michael (31:19):
So in talking about the States and Canada and other countries, obviously we're trading partners, do the policies that we set here, have any effect on say the states or vice versa?

Barry (31:31):
I think we are entering into a period where that issue is going to emerge more and more. We've had this long period where we don't have under internet national agreements, including Paris binding emission reduction targets. We have these individual national pledges, both Canada and the United States, but other world governments have really struggled with that. But we now have an interesting kind of asymmetry in several areas of climate policy, methane, hydrofluoric, carbons, but also carbon related to a carbon price. Canada has committed to moving well ahead of the United States. It's possible by 2030 that the carbon price in Canada will be $170 a ton Canadian. It's possible that the US effective carbon price will be what it is now - zero. Lots of goods get traded back and forth. And I live 25 minutes from the ambassador bridge. I'm happy to see the ambassador bridge opened up again. It's been closed for a little while.

How do we think about that in terms of trade and fairness and equity? The US economy is so much bigger than Canada is in terms of our population and everything else. And yet Canada has taken this step. I don't quite know how this is going to play out, but certainly, the Europeans are very aware of this. We're hearing more of this from Ottawa. Do we, you begin to look at something that is known as border adjustments in the arena of trade goods are adjusted all the time at the border through tariffs or other kinds of restrictions. Those can be retaliatory, but there's a long-standing history of tension between Canada and the US on things like the price of law lumber that goes across the board, or how we think about the content of an automobile energy moves, including electricity back and forth, the 49th parallel all the time.

We're really beginning to hear more about how you might think about climate policy and larger economic terms in terms of trade in that regard, those jurisdictions that have set serious carbon pricing, all of the European Union. Now Canada will be in a very, very interesting role and to see how they sort of play that card and play that relationship. There's a lot of talk in Washington about carbon border adjustments, arguing that, you know, we may be more energy efficient than some Asian manufacturers of steel and the like, but there's a real pause in the US when you get to that differential. And how do we explain the fact that we are subsidizing our industries and not putting any kind of a price on carbon when our neighbours to the north, but also our trade partners in Europe are moving in, even in Asia, places like China are beginning to look at forms of a carbon price. So I can't possibly begin to figure out how this is gonna play out. But just as you mentioned, a crucial word complementary between all of these policies domestically and play a moment ago, Michael, one thing that is coming is how we reconcile the differences in these pledges issues of pricing. And I think that's just gonna be growing and growing as an issue in the next few years.

Michael (34:46):
Yeah. Because it's obviously emissions, aren't just in one country, it's, it's a global problem. So that's yeah. I think that's really, really fascinating.

Barry (34:53):
Yes. And so when we talk about a ton of carbon, anywhere in the world, it has a comparable impact globally. It's different than something like sulphur dioxide or a more localized contaminant. How do we think about that in fairness or equity terms, especially in cases where you have highly developed advanced economies, like the United States like Canada, like the European union that presumably should have been leading on this issue for all long time, but in some cases it really shirked their responsibilities.

Michael (35:26):
Yeah. Especially cuz my understanding is that in the west and in economically developed countries, we have created the biggest share of the emissions already. Right. So it's, we have more responsibility.

Barry (35:38):
Yes. And that's a great question because you can cut this two ways. You can look at the immediate projected emissions and you see China up high, you see India rising high, still the US and Canada up there as well. But then if you look at historic emissions from past years, decades, generations, that's a different story. And politically reconciling those two framings of the data is an enormous challenge. But under no circumstances, do I think will developed nations like ours, be able to avoid the fact that not only are our contributions to the climate crisis through emissions ongoing but there's a legacy and a historic legacy. And somehow we're going to have to reconcile all of that. I think some of that can be woven out in trade, but that's not the only forum internationally where this ones gonna be fought out.

Michael (36:33):
So let's say that I've created a new country called Tinyhouselandia. Our GDP is small and our main export is this show, but why should Tinyhouselandia implement carbon pricing as part of our environmental policy?

Barry (36:48):
You know, if you create Tinyhouselandia, send me an invitation because I'd really love to come to visit. But I think that this is a terrific question. And it's one that we see increasingly local governments, many of them, quite small individual firms, businesses, communities, schools, colleges, and universities wrestling with even by taking its emissions to zero neither tiny house Landia nor the United States can solve the climate crisis. But if all of us don't step up, we know the climate crisis is going to get a lot worse. So what could Tinyhouselandia do? One, it could absolutely minimize or neutralize its carbon footprint. And that would contribute in a tiny way, but not insignificant because just like the reductions of one person are not irrelevant or insignificant, even smaller jurisdictions or even tiny nations are not exempt from this. But then there's also this question of models and best practices.

And I think the search is on all around the world for how we can incredibly devise a public policy that can be launched, put into operation sustained over time and achieve their goals, reducing carbon impact climate impact and not doing economic harm. The search is on for ways that that can be done and done well. And as we look for models and best practices, that's not always the biggest nations or the biggest corporations or the biggest states in the US. We've seen many very small states take very creative steps. Some cities, local governments, much the same way. So all of these jurisdictions have a role to play both because they're co-being to this problem through their behaviours and emissions, but they also, then if they're effective, if they're successful, they can contribute to this possible argument. And I think we're beginning to see this made that there are ways to do this credibly that transitioning away from carbon doesn't have to be the end of the business. It doesn't have to be the end of the world. And so hopefully tiny house Landia becomes a leader and then its neighbours and other places around the world learn from it just like every time parliament in Canada or the state legislature in Michigan needs to talk about these issues. Hopefully, they're looking for those ideas and examples of places that have really done this well. And how do we build on that? Or perhaps things that we shouldn't try to do because they aren't successful.

Michael (39:39):
I'm glad that Tinyhouselandia can have an impact. That's great. And I guess on that note, the show is about empowering citizens to take action on the climate crisis. So what can individuals do today to ensure that carbon pricing is part of the solution?

Barry (39:56):
I think, think that there are real opportunities around the world to better understand this find groups that are involved and engaged in it, and even look for ways to use this and put this into practice within their own jurisdictions, through possible tax or fee and mechanisms. And look for more localized ways to, to try to bring this about. And again, use the momentum then of working up an idea through trial and error rather than just pure theory. There are just so many ways to understand this and engage this. And you know, in the several years since the book that I published on this came out, I've spoken in a lot of places. And usually the first few questions I get from audiences, whether I'm at a university or somewhere else are from individuals who are struggling with this issue in their own jurisdiction and trying to make this work and then decide what is that policy approach? Is there a role for pricing or not? And how do they creatively do that? There are just some terrific stories out there. And, and I think an opportunity to kind of add to that set of stories that we can draw from.

Michael (41:13):
Yeah. I think that's really helpful, to use your personal story and your personal experience and try, to make that change. I think that's really effective. So before I let you go, Barry, you are working on a new book. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Barry (41:26):
I am. And I appreciate the question I made a brief reference to earlier in our conversation, Michael, to methane and hydrofluoric carbons. And I would bundle those into the category of short-lived climate pollutants. Often when we talk about climate change, the focus is only on carbon dioxide, the huge player once released into the atmosphere. It's been there for a long time, a big issue in problem, especially as we think about power sector transitions, but it's not the only part of this issue methane or ch four is a greenhouse gas that is released from energy production and use. It's basically a variant of natural gas produced from the agricultural and livestock sectors. A ton of methane released into the atmosphere has more than 80 times the global warming capacity of carbon during its first two decades in the atmosphere. Hydrofluoric carbons are substances that we use every day in North America and around the world for the duration of air conditioning systems, they have been very effective in terms of cooling, but also reducing the ozone depletion threat from an earlier set of chemicals.

But as they tend to be released to the atmosphere as they are through leaks and sometimes through production, they also have this very short-term, but the super-intensive impact on the climate. So the working title of my next book is the other gases, the non-carbon gases. And among the questions that I'm looking at is, is the politics and the policy design process are different. When we talk about not so much carbon in its longer-term trajectory, but these short to intensive pollutants, where we might be able to have some near term impact about a quarter to a third of global warming, that's already occurred, comes not from CO2, but from methane HFCs and these other chemicals. And so I'm very, very interested in this one and particularly because the issue of more local stories that we were discussing really does come into play here. There are some interesting ways that you can reduce methane releases.

You can make other shifts and adjustments for some of these chemicals and even at a more local scale, including colleges and universities, where I've had some involvement in planning, some of the aspects of, and, and developments of this. So I turn to this, not as the answer or the alternative, but as something that the natural and physical sciences have spent a lot of time focusing on the policy debate has kind of lagged. And I just see some just terrific opportunities from moving forward in this area globally and nationally, and also some really interesting opportunities for partnership, including those between Canada and the US, which actually seemed on some of these short-lived pollutants to becoming more and more aligned in ways that they just aren't on carbon and electricity in other areas. So that's what I'm working on currently and doing some travelling, trying to keep my carbon footprint low, but checking these short lift climate pollutants out.

Michael (44:37):
Sounds like a very interesting book. And I will just focus on one thing at a time. I don't wanna feel too you over my head with the different gases, but perhaps another topic for another episode,

Barry (44:46):
Always happy to have the conversation. Thanks so much for inviting me.

Michael (44:50):
Yeah. Thanks so much for coming out. It's been very educational Barry.

Barry (44:53):
Likewise. Thank you.

Michael (44:55):
Well, that was my conversation with professor Rabe. I know it's not a new thing, but I really liked his comparison with the tobacco industry and how, because of misinformation and other factors, we didn't know how bad smoking was for us. And now we've changed as a society. I'd like to see that for carbon, who knows maybe it will factor into our dating decisions one day. "Well that Sally, she is a mighty fine young lady, heck of a dancer. And we like the same music, but she loves her fossil fuels. Woo. And I'm a, a low carbon kind of cowboy and I've just, I've been trying to kick the habit and you know what? That is just a deal-breaker for me. It ain't happened in no way. She is not the one for me". Here's hoping. Well, that's all for me. I'm Michael Bartz, here's the feeling a little less, you know, over our head when it comes to saving the planet. We'll see you again, soon. In Over My Head you produced and hosted by Michael Bartz, original theme song by Gabriel Thaine. If you would like to get in touch with us, please email info over my head Special thanks to Telus STORYHIVE for making this show possible.

I'm trying to save the planet. Will someone please save me?

The Grid Part 2: Carbon Pricing
Broadcast by