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Mark Buchanan

Climate Change’s Long-Term Fix Has a Short-Term Cost

A carbon tax will have consequences for food security that need mitigating.

A carbon tax would raise costs.

A carbon tax would raise costs.

Photographer: Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images

Global warming is getting a little scary, as its consequences emerge more quickly than most scientists had expected, in soaring global temperatures, unprecedented wildfires and many other effects. This year is on target to be the fourth hottest ever, only just behind the three previous years. Meanwhile, humanity has made very little progress in taking action, with carbon dioxide emissions higher now than ever before, having actually increased 60 percent over the past 25 years — all while we’ve been fully aware of the problem.

But hope for a simple fix — such as a carbon tax, the preferred option of most economists — is naive, even setting aside the formidable political challenges. Among other things, a new study suggests, a meaningful carbon tax could trigger food shortages by 2050 for many of the poorest people in the world, and even be worse than climate change continuing completely unabated.