Wednesday, September 22, 2021


Americans have seen their fair share of outlandish schemes that would feature prominently in the Rules and Regulations Hall of Fame. If there were such a place, a new one would deserve placement in the nook of the most notorious. It is “personal carbon allowances” (PCAs), essentially a government-run system regulating the use of carbon-based products. The concept has gained interest in tandem with the proliferation of new rules requiring citizens to show proof of coronavirus vaccination. Were carbon-use passports to become a reality, Americans would pay dearly to reside in “the land of the free.”

A generations-old obsession with climate change has given rise to the view that naturally occurring carbon dioxide becomes an unnatural poison when produced by human activity. Accordingly, a paper published in August by the journal Nature has floated the idea of establishing a system for tracking and limiting an individual’s carbon usage.

“A PCA scheme would entail all adults receiving an equal, tradable carbon allowance that reduces over time in line with national targets,” reads the paper. Among carbon-emitting energy usage to be traced would be electricity and fuel for heating and travel. Additional allowances could be purchased from persons with a surplus, with a nation’s total supply dwindling over time. More ambitious options could include tracking of carbon usage for larger shares of economic activity, including the production of consumer products. The proposal recommends conducting PCA trials “in selected climate-conscious technologically advanced countries.”

Other than the loss of constitutionally protected privacy with Uncle Sam eyeballing every American adult’s purchases of targeted products, not to mention the gradual forfeiture of the freedom to live a chosen lifestyle, what’s not to like?

Thus far, the personal carbon allowance proposal is only a glimmer in the imaginations of environmental extremists. But dreams, even nightmarish ones, sometimes come true. Who would have imagined, pre-COVID-19, that New Yorkers would need a vaccine permit to enter a restaurant?

Proponents justify their grab for personal carbon controls with the warning that increasing global carbon-based energy usage could raise atmospheric temperatures, dooming humanity to a future of environmental devastation.

There is reason, though, to temper climate fears. Global deaths resulting from climate disasters have not skyrocketed but plummeted during the modern age of carbon-emitting human activity, reports Danish environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg. He writes: “In the 1920s, the death count from climate-related disasters was 485,000 on average every year. In the last full decade, 2010-2019, the average was 18,362 dead per year, or 96.2 percent lower.”

Humanity demonstrates a remarkable ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Category 5 Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast in 2005, killing more than 1,500 Louisianians. When slightly less-powerful Hurricane Ida hit the storm-hardened state recently, the death toll was 13.

Authoritarians demonstrate an impulse to regard each emergency as an opportunity to chip away at human freedom. Americans should take a hard pass on carbon-use passports.

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