Writing in USA Today, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has a novel solution to the problem of "blue zones," or the areas that climate-change activists say are likely to be flooded the soonest by rising sea levels: Tax them to discourage development and use the money to build remediation efforts too.
If we're seriously worried about flooding from higher sea levels, then we want to make sure that areas that will be flooded in the future won't be developed now. We want to limit the investment in buildings that will be swamped, and we want to limit the number of people who'll have to move. And we want to encourage people who live in those areas now to move away in the near future, before they're flooded.
How do we do that? Well, we could do a lot of things: Limit construction in lower-lying coastal areas, ban rebuilding after hurricane damage, etc. But probably the favorite tool of politicians out to regulate behavior is to tax people for doing things the politicians don't like. So that's my proposal: Tax the blue zones. That is, put a large and steeply-increasing tax on property located in areas scientists say are likely to be flooded because of global warming….
Climate activists say that between 20 million and 31 million Americans live in places that will be at risk of flooding from global warming by the end of the century. Just to be safe, I think we should aim to reduce the number of people living in these areas by 25% within 25 years, 50% within 50 years and, naturally, 100% by the end of the century.
Of course, taxes and policies rarely work so transparently, both in terms of trying to drive down a targeted behavior by making it more expensive and by being levied on the people actually involved in the activity. Most taxes, especially at the federal level, are a way of shifting money from less-politically connected people to more-politically connected people (hence, payroll taxes take money from young, relatively poor workers to give to older, relatively wealthy people—when the funds aren't being hijacked into the general revenue fund first).
Republicans, of course, believe in climate change at even lower numbers than they believe in evolution, so they likely will ignore such a proposal. And Democrats, especially wealthy ones who are so quick to denounce plebeian interest in cheap energy, are too likely to be effected by any such tax to get behind it. As Reynolds writes,
Urban Democrats, of course, are among the biggest believers in, and clamorers about, climate change. So you would expect them to support this sort of an approach. But unlike, say, high gas taxes or utility bills or closed coal mines that disproportionately affect people out in flyover country, the blue zone tax would have its greatest effect on, well, blue zones. And even there, people are more interested in talking about global warming than in sacrificing to fix it. (In Santa Barbara, a proposed "blue line" that would show where the new post-global-warming seacoast would be was withdrawn out of fear that it would hurt property values. A flood-risk tax, obviously, would have a greater effect).
Still, if global warming really is a challenge that deserves the equivalent of war mobilization in response, as some activists claim, then it's hard to call my proposal too drastic. So what do you say, Congress? Is there a "flood risk tax" in our future?