By Michael Le Page Could coal mining operations like this one in West Virgina could be taxed without a public backlash?Orjan F. Ellingvag/Corbis via Getty Images Few countries have a tax on carbon that is high enough to make a difference, at least partly because politicians fear a backlash from citizens. But a survey has shown that nervousness may be misplaced. A carbon tax is usually applied to companies that extract or import fossil fuels. The costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. For instance, natural gas used for heating would be more expensive. Liam Beiser-McGrath at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and his colleagues asked 3000 people in the US about this idea. They found that a majority of people would support a meaningful tax providing the money is either used to fund renewable energy or redistributed back to people – an approach often called “tax and dividend”. Advertisement “It’s more politically feasible than previously thought,” says Beiser-McGrath. The next steps on climate change: Christiana Figueres at New Scientist Live It’s thought a carbon tax of at least $50 dollars per tonne emitted is needed to make a significant dent in carbon emissions. This would cost the average consumer $720 per year. In the online survey, carried out in February 2018, people were randomly asked about carbon taxes of between $10 and $70 per tonne, which would cost between $144 and $1008 a year. Support for a carbon tax dropped rapidly as the cost rose. But there were also large variations in support depending on what happened to the money. The least popular option was using the revenue to reduce corporate taxes, with fewer than 40 per cent backing this even at $10 a tonne. But if the revenue was used to fund renewables, 57 per cent backed it even at $50 a tonne. The tax and dividend was the second most popular option. Read more: How to snatch carbon emissions victory from US climate U-turn In a tax and dividend system, people who buy more goods would end up paying more in carbon taxes, but everyone would be given the same amount back, say $720. This means that people who lead greener lifestyles would end up better off overall. This system also has the advantage of reducing inequality, because rich people end up paying more. It’s already clear that the impacts of climate change fall disproportionately on the poor. The same survey was also done in Germany. Surprisingly, the level of support there was significantly lower than in the US, whatever the option. Journal reference: Science Advances, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax3323 More on these topics: climate