I spend a lot of free time working on carbon taxes, especially revenue-neutral carbon taxes (where the revenue from the carbon tax goes to reduce existing taxes). I even talk about it in my comedy routines, and to some extent I do comedy so that I can talk to people about carbon pricing. So… why? Three reasons. One, climate change has the potential to be a huge huge issue this century: I’m not convinced that a climate catastrophe is looming, but I think the threat of a climate catastrophe should be taken seriously. Two, economics has a lot to add to this discussion: the theory of externalities, cost-benefit analysis, economic instruments like carbon taxes and cap-and-trade… all of these and more make economics a crucial part of the discussion; people who wonder what economists have to say about environmental issues couldn’t be more wrong. Three, economists more or less agree on what should be done. This is very different than, say, many questions in macroeconomics, which everyone agrees are important but which elicit wildly different opinions from experts. In contrast, just about all economists think that putting a price on carbon (with a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, but especially with a revenue-neutral carbon tax) is necessary if not sufficient in tackling climate change. Paul Krugman, Greg Mankiw, arguably even Milton Friedman, the list goes on.
In short, I’m hoping I can add an economist’s voice (and to a great extent the voice of almost all economists) to the discussion of a major policy issue. That seems like a good way to spend part of my life.