The European Union and congressional Democrats are proposing a climate change pollution tax on imports. This tax penalizes imported products that are produced and delivered using carbon-centric technologies. Since import taxes are really consumption taxes, a carbon import tax would be a global step toward charging consumers who buy more polluting products with a higher cost tied to their actions.
But Americans hate taxes that raise prices! Even with a majority of us now making the connection between extreme weather and greenhouse gas emissions the idea of raising taxes on carbon-centric products like gasoline or fossil fueled generated electricity is political suicide.
Why Americans Hate Carbon Taxes
Let’s talk “sin.” Sin is doing something you know is wrong. In marketing, sinful consumption is known as “guilty pleasures.”
One guilty pleasure example is our love of fossil-fuel-guzzling, full-size SUVs/trucks. That love affair has now made transportation our country’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Another guilty pleasure is our national addiction to the sugar, fats and salts served in super- sized sodas, hamburgers and fries. This guilty pleasure is why we have a national obesity epidemic. A recent study estimates that fast food prices would triple if external consequences like global warming and obesity were included.
Home ownership is an American dream. That dream has expanded to super-sized homes that are energy and water hogs. The unintended consequences are that buildings account for 40% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and Utah, a state with low water rates, is watching the Great Salt Lake evaporate during a climate change enhanced super drought.
American consumers know these facts. The behavioral economics truth is that the facts are too often overwhelmed as we make consumption decisions driven by love, addiction and dreams. Doing something as logical as taxing emissions is felt by consumers as a tax on their loves and dreams. Thus, rejection of carbon taxes by consumers/voters.
Cost Less, Mean More vs Carbon Taxes
The American opposition to carbon taxes is why clean technologies are so important. The all- electric Ford F-150 Lightning full-size truck offers consumers a path for decarbonizing their lives without giving up their love of large, fun vehicles. Smart, solar powered homes fulfill our homeownership dreams with net zero emissions.
But for all the promise of clean technologies, please allow me to be frank, world emission levels have crossed over to a new reality. The scale of past emissions combined with the growing amount of new emissions now threatens your life, your livelihood, your food supply and your children/grandchildren’s future. Based on Department of Defense threat assessments we will also suffer from more wars as a result.
Time now works against us. A consumer shift into “cost less, mean more” clean technologies by 2040 or 2050, as projected by our utilities, is a time horizon that is no longer fast enough to stop the worst of climate change.
And that is why, at great political risk, the European Union and now congressional Democrats are exploring a climate change pollution tax on imports or “them.” And “them” is actually us and all the countries in the world that are still growing carbon-centric economies. We are now at a historical inflection point where we, the world, either accepts a carbon tax that reflects climate change’s costs or we pay for climate change through damages inflicted on your hopes, dreams and loved ones.
Your Business Climate Change Next Steps
Marketing: No business needs to be told that fulfilling consumer passions is the key to sales success. Right now, most of your consumers are conflicted between their consumption passions and increasing fears over how climate impacts them. Your marketing opportunity is to deliver decarbonized “cost less, mean more” solutions that let them enjoy their loves, dreams and passions.
Supply Chain: Disruptive supply chain volatility is the new climate change norm. Don’t wait until it is too late for your business. Start now in identifying supply chain risk mitigation strategies that address climate change enhanced weather, diseases and wars.
Physical Assets: Your buildings, equipment and vehicles are at increased risk from climate change enhanced weather events. Figure out what your “once in a hundred years” weather risks are and plan for their occurrence. Be part of the solution by investing in net zero buildings and electric vehicles.
Work Associates: Millennial and GenZ work associates want to be part of the decarbonized economy. Gain alignment with them by incorporating sustainability into their work lives. Harvest their energy and insights to realize economic decarbonization opportunities.
This is a moment of crisis, but also of opportunity. Choose the latter for your business and your life.