The Certainties in Life: Death, Taxes, and Global Warming? an Analysis of Border Tax Adjustments as Incentives for Promoting Worldwide Energy Efficiency

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

Benjamin Franklin once wrote: "[I]n the world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes." (1) Over 200 years later, there may now be another certainty in life: global warming. (2) Perhaps we can use one certainty to avert another. (3) One way to help alleviate global warming is to encourage environmentally responsible conduct through taxes, as taxes serve as an incentive influencing people's lifestyle choices. (4) For example, some countries offer tax breaks for constructing energy efficient buildings and driving electric cars to reduce carbon emissions. (5) Although ecotaxes are currently in place, to establish a norm of environmental respect worldwide, the World Trade Organization (WTO) should implement border tax adjustments (BTAs) on exports manufactured using inefficient energy technologies. (6)

This Note will propose the implementation of export taxes on goods produced using inefficient manufacturing processes and analyze whether such taxes would comply with WTO regulations. (7) Part II of this Note will discuss the causes and potential future effects of global warming. (8) Part III of this Note will discuss the history of BTAs, as well as the structure and functions of the WTO. (9) In Part IV, this Note will analyze the benefits of BTAs as incentives promoting energy efficiency. (10) Finally, Part V of this Note will support the need for the WTO to weigh environmental concerns above commercial matters. (11)

II. FACTS

A. Global Warming

1. Causes of Climate Change

Recently, much debate has surfaced regarding the magnitude and uncertainty of how global warming will affect the Earth and whether global warming is exacerbated by human activities. (12) However, according to NASA, certain facts and observations regarding Earth's recent climate change are indisputable. (13) For example, sea levels have risen about 17 centimeters in the last century, and the rate of sea level increase in the last decade is nearly twice that of the last century. (14) Additionally, ocean temperatures increased 0.302[degrees]F since 1969, and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica decreased in mass about 36 and 60 cubic miles between 2002 and 2006. (15) Scientists have come to accept these observations regarding climate change as proof that global warming is real. (16)

While scientists are certain that global warming is happening, they have spent years trying to determine exactly what is causing it. (17) Although scientists have determined that certain natural events have been a factor in climate change, nature alone cannot explain the significant increase in global warming that has occurred in recent years. (18) According to National Geographic, the recent increase in global warming is attributable to greenhouse gases emitted by human activity, such as the combustion of fossil fuels in cars, factories, and electricity production. (19) These greenhouse gases absorb the heat radiating from Earth and trap the heat in the atmosphere, thereby causing the planet's surface temperature to rise. (20) Additionally, certain gases in the atmosphere prevent heat from escaping into space and remain semi-permanently in the atmosphere. (21) Human activity has exacerbated the greenhouse effect as our industrial activities have only increased the amount of greenhouse gases that seep into the atmosphere. (22)

2. The Future of Global Warming

Climatologists know with virtual certainty that Earth's temperature has risen about 1.0 to 1.7[degrees]F between 1906 and 2005. (23) Additionally, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that the probability that human activities have warmed the Earth over the past 250 years is more than 90%. (24) Although speculation exists among the science of climate change, climatologists claim that their "understanding of global warming processes and computer models have improved" significantly over the years. …

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