Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Other Inheritance Tax

Repealing the estate tax has long been a dream of Republican lawmakers. This is a 40% tax on all assets exceeding $5.45 Million for an individual decedent or twice that exemption for a couple. Those who want to repeal it believe that our descendants are all entitled to the fruits of our labor and to live at least as well as their forebears.

I share the ideal that our descendants should enjoy a quality of life at least as good as ours, which makes it crucial to abolish the other inheritance tax: the quality of life taxed to future generations for every gallon of fossil fuel burned.

Global warming as a consequence of human activity has become an incontrovertible fact of science. The cost to future generations is incalculable. Effects include a rapidly increasing frequency of severe storms, floods, droughts, and other natural disasters, the accelerating loss of the polar ice caps accompanied by rising seas, acidification of the oceans with an accompanying decimation of marine biodiversity, and extinctions of species leading to a staggering loss of terrestrial biodiversity. A huge unanswerable question is whether or not we would be one of the surviving species.

Sweeping changes to the landscape of our planet will likely include coastal flooding and the reshaping of the boundaries of our land masses as well as regional climate changes that will threaten the food and water supplies of whole populations, leading to mass migrations and a refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions. Aside from the inherent suffering of these populations, such conditions become breeding grounds for violent conflict and recruitment to radical causes.

Since the process of global warming feeds itself, much has been said of the “tipping point,” the moment in time at which the process becomes irreversible and life on earth is eventually doomed. Some believe that we have already crossed it. Others suggest that it is close at hand. It is likely, in any case, that every year in which we contribute to the problem matters. Even the next four years could determine whether or not we step off the edge of the cliff.

It is time for those we elect to public office to put aside their differences and address the big problems that will shape the world to come. Ignoring or denying these problems gambles the survival of our species. Putting off the solutions in the interest of short-term gains may deprive future generations of a chance to live. And that’s the ultimate pro-life position.