When I search Google for “Chris Bosh is a…” the autofill feature suggests I complete the phrase with “a dinosaur,” or more specifically, “a velociraptor”. Notwithstanding my usual confidence in Google’s expertise on all things Bosh, I beg to differ with auto fill. I say he’s a carbon tax.
I came to this conclusion while explaining the value of a price on carbon to my uninitiated friends. To accomplish my goal of making the concepts of environmental economics, negative externalities, and Pigovian taxes somewhat palatable, I often use analogies. This is part of a loftier ambition to make environmental issues more relatable to my friends by comparing them to pop culture. Luckily, our shared appreciation of the National Basketball Association (NBA) provided a decent starting point, leading to the following conclusion: Chris Bosh is to the Miami Heat what a carbon tax is to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
As you may know, Bosh is the meme-generating, photobombing, power forward for the Miami Heat known for his light-hearted antics as much as his basketball prowess. A carbon tax is a tax on CO2 emissions generated from fossil fuel combustion; the idea being that companies (and individuals) should pay for the environmental damage they are causing via pollution arising from production/energy usage (from power plants, cars, electicity, etc.) The revenue from a carbon tax could be returned to taxpayers via a reduction in payroll taxes or as a stipend (revenue neutral options); or a portion of the revenue could be used for R&D and subsidies for the development of cleaner technologies.
So how is Chris Bosh similar to a carbon tax?
By basketball standards, Chris Bosh is efficient, and has only improved his productivity during his time with the Heat. His player efficiency rating (PER) has gone from 48th best in the league in 2011-12 to 26th this season (with a career average PER that places him 49th highest in the history of the NBA). He’s a nine-time all-star shooting the highest field goal percentage of his career this season while playing fewer minutes, reducing his number of shots, and committing fewer turnovers to facilitate his teammates’ scoring. Bosh is doing more for his team, while using little of his team’s collective resources.
Like Bosh, a carbon tax is efficient in that it achieves maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort; in other words, it’s simple. A carbon tax has the potential to drive technological innovation, to spur growth in the emergent clean jobs sector, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 14% below 2006 levels by 2020. The fact that a carbon tax is a set price per ton of CO2 emitted makes potential implementation exponentially simpler than a cap-and-trade scheme and the associated administrative costs would likely be <3% of total revenue.
You might be thinking, “But LeBron James is arguably the best, most efficient player in the NBA. If a carbon tax is so great, wouldn’t LeBron be a more apt comparison.”
People appreciate Chris Bosh, or at least kind of like him. He is respected and perceived as affable. LeBron, though extremely popular, has been a polarizing figure since “The Decision”. When LeBron eviscerates defenses and posterizes impetuous guards without regard, he reminds me more of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) than a carbon tax. Sure he effectively “regulates”, but his imposing, top-down presence is off-putting to some and, like the EPA, LeBron has been chided for a perceived lack of transparency. Dwyane Wade, though still effective, is a far cry from his 2006 standing and is less frequently mentioned as a serious first-option, making him analogous to cap-and-trade.
Nobody likes pollution; and the worsening effects of climate change are being caused by CO2 pollution. A carbon tax is a solution that has broad support that transcends political and philosophical divides. Economists and liberal activists support a carbon tax; and so do corporations and conservative thought leaders. It’s hard to say that everyone loves a carbon tax because people only get so excited about economic policies. However, most at least kind of like it as a pragmatic, transpartisan response to a worsening financial and environmental issue. Also like Bosh, a carbon tax has made a name for itself in Canada.
Bosh has expanded his offense to include the three-point shot, spreading the floor, and more catch-and-go plays. This is all in addition to his reliable post game. His offensive versatility allows him to play effectively with Heat players of all styles while switching between the power forward and center positions. This adaptability has been key for the Miami Heat’s sustained success and has been a driving force behind their campaign for a third straight championship.
A revenue neutral carbon tax could be applied using one of two models: The “across-the-board” model (ATB) that would use the revenue gained from the tax to cut income and/or corporate taxes; and the “fee-and-dividend” model (FAD), which equally divides and returns the carbon tax revenue to each household. Though there are debates as to which model is more effective, the flexible options make a carbon tax more appealing broadly and provides a level of versatility needed to convince reluctant politicians of its intrinsic value.
Perhaps in order to effectively combat a warming planet, we will need numerous policy and regulatory responses of which a carbon tax is but one solution. Like Bosh it is broadly supported and versatile in its potential implementation. Regardless of whether it is the only answer, or part of a team of solutions, it’s time we get a carbon tax off the bench so we can have a strong fourth quarter in our fight against climate change.
Illustration by Josh Mecouch
Marvin Smith is a Stakeholder Engagement Analyst at Future 500, a global non-profit specializing in stakeholder engagement and building bridges between parties at odds –corporations and NGOs, the political right and left, and others – to advance systemic solutions to urgent sustainability challenges.