gnome wrote:I think I understand the principle at hand, but it rests on some shaky conditionals.
IF it can be legally established that fossil fuel usage is a direct contributor to climate change, instead of just a scientific conclusion that informs policy, and
IF it can be demonstrated that NYC is incurring actual costs from the effects,
then it seems like an externality case.
The fossil fuel industry would be sending the bill for a cost of their business to the taxpayers. While ultimately the money comes from consumers anyway, being able to take it off their books removes market incentives to process more efficiently or invest in cleaner energy sources. It artificially deflates the comparative costs of fossil fuel against options that are more renewable/sustainable.
So I don't think the line of reasoning is insane, but I'm not sure that the premises it rests on will fly at this point. The politics of it are an obstacle--can we get more mileage from collaborative and more voluntary or regulation driven measures?
Not an easy issue, this. We're going to see more of it.
I think your reasoning is faulty. Your first two "IFs" are fine. It's what comes after where the reasoning breaks down.
"The fossil fuel industry would be sending the bill for a cost of their business to the taxpayers." First of all, they can't send a "bill for the cost to taxpayers". They can raise prices in theory, but gasoline is a fungible commodity and market competition prevents them from doing that without colluding to set prices. Second, they aren't suing the whole "fossil fuel industry" but 5 specific companies. Why not coal mining companies? Why are producers rather than consumers of fossil fuels responsible? It's really everyone's collective responsibility, at least everyone who consumes the energy produced by fossil fuels, which is essentially everybody. They wouldn't be producing these fuels if there wasn't a demand for it.
The best, fairest economic answer I've seen is a carbon tax. We've built a whole society and modern way of life that is powered mainly by fossil fuels. It's everybody, they just play a necessary role in it. Anyone who willingly consumes fossil fuels has no moral standing to blame the person who supplies those fuels for playing the necessary role which their own actions show is necessary. Call it a "necessary evil" if you will, but if an "evil" is necessary, then don't blame the person who performs that "evil" task. Don't hate the undertaker for burying the dead because the dead have to be buried. There were certain social caste systems that looked at some occupations as impure, even though they are necessary functions to perform. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burakumin
Burakumin (部落民, "hamlet people"/"village people", "those who live in hamlets/villages") is an outcaste group at the bottom of the Japanese social order that has historically been the victim of severe discrimination and ostracism. They were originally members of outcast communities in the Japanese feudal era, composed of those with occupations considered impure or tainted by death (such as executioners, undertakers, workers in slaughterhouses, butchers or tanners), which have severe social stigmas of kegare (穢れ or "defilement") attached to them. Traditionally, the Burakumin lived in their own communities, hamlets or ghettos.
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.