A Modest Proposal From Glenn Reynolds

Glenn Reynolds’ current USA Today column offers a brilliant solution to a non-existent problem. The alleged problem is that America’s coastal cities will be largely under water by the end of the century, due to global warming. What’s more, the authors of that prediction say it is too late to do anything about it. Don’t worry; it isn’t going to happen. Sea level has been rising since the end of the last Ice Age around 12,000 years ago, and has not accelerated in recent years.

But, Glenn writes, let’s assume that the alarmists are right. If it’s too late to stop global warming-induced flooding, what should we do about it?

Some climate activists have even released an interactive map that will let you see how much of, say Washington, DC, will be under water in the next century, with the flooded zones depicted in blue. (Not all of it, alas).

Well, if it’s too late to stop global warming, I have a modest proposal instead: Tax the blue zones. That is, minimize the damage that will occur from flooding many decades in the future by reducing development now.

If we’re seriously worried about flooding from higher sea levels, then we want to make sure that areas that will be flooded in the future won’t be developed now. We want to limit the investment in buildings that will be swamped, and we want to limit the number of people who’ll have to move. And we want to encourage people who live in those areas now to move away in the near future, before they’re flooded.

How do we do that? Well, we could do a lot of things: Limit construction in lower-lying coastal areas, ban rebuilding after hurricane damage, etc. But probably the favorite tool of politicians out to regulate behavior is to tax people for doing things the politicians don’t like. So that’s my proposal: Tax the blue zones. That is, put a large and steeply-increasing tax on property located in areas scientists say are likely to be flooded because of global warming.

Because science! You don’t want to be a science denier, do you?

Such a tax may seem burdensome up front, of course, but if flooding is as big a problem as climate activists claim, today’s burdens are likely to be minor compared with the the problems prevented by limiting development in the blue zones that are destined to be flooded. Like the high fuel taxes designed to keep SUV-driving flyover types from burning too much gas, my proposed “blue zone tax” will affect behavior now in ways that will reduce costs in the future.

Climate activists say that between 20 million and 31 million Americans live in places that will be at risk of flooding from global warming by the end of the century. Just to be safe, I think we should aim to reduce the number of people living in these areas by 25% within 25 years, 50% within 50 years and, naturally, 100% by the end of the century.

Who do you suppose will have to pay those “blue zone taxes”? That’s right:

Though I used the term “blue zone” to refer to the flooded areas as they’re shown on the climate change map, it hasn’t escaped my notice that most of those areas are blue in another sense: Urban coastal cities that are heavily Democratic.

Urban Democrats, of course, are among the biggest believers in, and clamorers about, climate change. So you would expect them to support this sort of an approach. But unlike, say, high gas taxes or utility bills or closed coal mines that disproportionately affect people out in flyover country, the blue zone tax would have its greatest effect on, well, blue zones. And even there, people are more interested in talking about global warming than in sacrificing to fix it. (In Santa Barbara, a proposed “blue line” that would show where the new post-global-warming seacoast would be was withdrawn out of fear that it would hurt property values. A flood-risk tax, obviously, would have a greater effect).

Heh. If global warming is really the greatest threat to our national security, as liberals like to say, a little inconvenience for blue state voters should be no obstacle. Right? As Glenn also likes to say: I will believe it’s a crisis when the people who keep telling me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis.