Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Temple Law Review




Economists across the political spectrum argue that a carbon tax is the most effective and economically efficient policy for addressing climate change. Voters, however, strongly oppose the carbon tax and instead favor “green” subsidies and command-and-control regulations. If carefully designed, these policies might complement a carbon tax, but by themselves, they will make global warming mitigation incredibly expensive and perhaps even infeasible. Moreover, if poorly designed, subsidies and regulations can be counterproductive.

This Article argues that the public dislikes the carbon tax because the tax possesses attributes that make it psychologically unappealing relative to other climate policy instruments. The Article also argues that even if carbon tax proponents eventually persuade voters to accept a carbon tax, voters are biased in favor of particular design features that would make the tax less efficient. The Article discusses ways to overcome the problems that voter psychology creates. These include a communications strategy designed to combat voter bias and the controversial proposition that bureaucrats, who are somewhat insulated from public pressure, might adopt a carbon tax administratively. The Article also contributes to the burgeoning literature on how psychology affects the law and public policy.

First Page


Last Page


Num Pages


Volume Number


Issue Number



Temple University School of Law

FIle Type




To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.