PerspectiveSYNTHETIC CHEMISTRY

Rethinking chemistry for a circular economy

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Science  24 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6476, pp. 369-370
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba4979

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  • Taxing Pollution at the Marginal Cost of its Abatement
    • Yinyin Cai, Institute of Atmospheric Environmental Economics, Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, Nanjing 210044, China
    • Other Contributors:
      • Yew-Kwang Ng, Special Chair Professor, School of Economics, Fudan University, Shanghai, China 200433

    Recently, more and more environmental problems have been discussed by researchers in different fields, such as mining, chemical industry, and agriculture, etc (1-3). Some hidden impacts were also disclosed and estimated (4). Correspondingly, different targeted policy recommendations were made for the specific issues respectively. Nonetheless, many of them are complicated and difficult for the public and policy makers to understand and implement. This hinders the effectiveness of protecting the environment.
    To tackle the increasingly important global environmental issues, a simple and intelligible environmental principle is desirable. Considering the complex processes of various economic activities, hidden environmental disruptions, and invisible welfare losses, we propose a simple solution that taxes the pollution at the marginal costs it imposes in most cases. These costs may be difficult to estimate, especially if we take into account, as we should, effects in the far future, as are true for most effects of global warming. However, it has been shown that, where this is the case, it is usually efficient to tax the pollution at the marginal costs of reducing it through abatement investment, such as growing more trees to reduce CO2 (5). This efficiency may be seen thus. Taxing pollution at the marginal costs of reducing it encourages polluters to reduce pollution. Then, the society may choose to reduce the abatement investment, while keeping the environmental quality...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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