By Eduardo Porter

Ted Cruz says climate change is not happening. Donald Trump says he doesn’t believe in it. Marco Rubio, whose hometown, Miami, is projected to be largely underwater within the not too distant future as ice caps shrink and the sea level rises, argues that government efforts to combat it will “destroy our economy.”

But those views are not widely shared by conservatives elsewhere around the world. Indeed, not that long ago in a not too distant country, a right-leaning party that shares many of the antitax, pro-business beliefs of Republicans in the United States did exactly what its unbelieving candidates so fear.

In 2008, the British Columbia Liberal Party, which confoundingly leans right, introduced a tax on the carbon emissions of businesses and families, cars and trucks, factories and homes across the province. The party stuck to the tax even as the left-leaning New Democratic Party challenged it in provincial elections the next year under the slogan Axe the Tax. The conservatives won soundly at the polls.

Their experience shows that cutting carbon emissions enough to make a difference in preventing global warming remains a difficult challenge. But the most important takeaway for American skeptics is that the policy basically worked as advertised.

British Columbia’s economy did not collapse. In fact, the provincial economy grew faster than its neighbors’ even as its greenhouse gas emissions declined…

…With few exceptions, British Columbia’s tax is the steepest and broadest in existence. While that sets British Columbia apart as a leader on the cutting edge, it is also part of its problem. For the policy to work best, it needs the rest of the world to catch up.

Local leaders now recognize that they probably have to do more. Carbon emissions started rising again after the province froze the tax at 30 Canadian dollars in 2012. An advisory panel to the Ministry of the Environment recently laid out the problem: British Columbia is missing its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by a third from 2007 to 2020. On its current path, the province will also miss its target of an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

This is not entirely British Columbia’s fault. True, the tax might have been too low. Spending some of the money on green initiatives might have curbed emissions faster. But its experiment has battled a harsh headwind: a collapse in the prices of oil and gasoline.

Look at it this way. A study by Michael Greenstone and Thomas Covert of the University of Chicago and Professor Knittel concluded that at current battery prices, for an electric vehicle to be cheaper to run than a gas-power car, oil would have to cost $350 a barrel. Last year, it averaged $50. To make up the difference would require a carbon tax of $700 a ton of carbon dioxide…

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Areas of Focus: Climate Change
Climate Change
Climate change is an urgent global challenge. EPIC research is helping to assess its impacts, quantify its costs, and identify an efficient set of policies to reduce emissions and adapt...
Climate Economics
Climate Economics
Climate change will affect every sector of the economy, both locally and globally. EPIC research is quantifying these effects to help guide policymakers, businesses, and individuals working to mitigate and...
Climate Law & Policy
Climate Law & Policy
As countries around the world implement policies to confront climate change, EPIC research is calculating which policies will have the most impact for the least cost.