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The case for a carbon tax

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Sen. Joe Manchin reacts to a question about carbon tax as he walks back to his office following votes at the U.S. Capitol on September 29, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Sen. Joe Manchin reacts to a question about carbon tax as he walks back to his office following votes at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 29. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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How big is your carbon footprint? Do you really know? If it was taxed, you’d find out one way or another.

Think of it like a sales tax — a carbon tax could automatically apply to whatever you buy, but vary according to the environmental impact. Or maybe the producer gets hit with additional taxes and passes the cost on to you. Either way, you’ll learn something.

“That is perhaps one of the most valuable things about a carbon tax, it’s information,” said Shi-Ling Hsu, economist and the D’Alemberte professor at Florida State University College of Law. “Supply and demand being what it is, if you could get the price of the harm into the market, we’re going to have less of it.”

It’s an idea some Democrats have been kicking around (that photo above is Sen. Joe Manchin reacting to a question about it), and so has the European Union. The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, starts this weekend in Glasgow. If you pay attention to this kind of thing at all, you’re going to hear a lot about going carbon neutral or carbon negative, carbon offsets and “global net zero.” On today’s show, we’re going to take a step back and explain the carbon tax.

We’ll talk with Hsu, who wrote “The Case for a Carbon Tax,” all about using the free market to fight the climate crisis. We’ll talk about how a carbon tax is calculated, the roadblocks it could face and why it would have to be global to really make a difference.

Later in the show, we’ll talk Disneyland prices and more on the Facebook Papers. Plus, we’ll hear from a crafty listener and another who changed the way she thought about money.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Read the transcript here.

Finally: We need your voice memos! Tell us what you think of the show or ask a question for Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood to answer! Here’s how to do it.

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