Posts Tagged 'carbon tax'

Learning To Count Carbon

I posted my thoughts on Bear Stearns right after it collapsed. But a deeper problem even than the money-drunk nature of our culture is the way we count.

Our economic system hasn’t yet learned how to count in a way that reflects reality. Natural systems like air, soil and water (also known as the primary world) are holding up our whole civilization. Our economy is predicated on them and would collapse in their absence. Yet we assign them no value in our Gross Domestic Product, which unfortunately gives us every incentive to squander them in the course of making and consuming the things that are counted in GDP. Most of those things, in turn, contribute very little to our happiness.

The other thing we need to learn to count is carbon emissions. They’re the primary drivers of global warming and all of us are creating them every time we drive and fly and most of the time that we use electricity. If carbon emissions were counted and taxed we would create them more sparingly. They’re not taxed, partly because we haven’t figured out how to count them, and also because we lack the public and political will to do it.

All the market players, government, businesses and individuals alike, will be continuing to operate in economic unreality until we have a carbon tax and also accurate valuations of what natural resources actually contribute to the economy. The cost of these delusions, of our not knowing how to count, is exponentially escalating climate change with economic impacts that will make the Bear Stearns collapse look like a fond memory.

Nader In The Race: Firebrand Or Fussbudget?

So Ralph Nader has thrown his hat in the ring, i.e. the presidential race. My question is whether that hat can ignite a fire under the feet of the other candidates to seriously consider a national carbon tax.

While Nader supports a carbon tax, the viable candidates do not. Rather, they have irresponsibly not taken global warming seriously. If there’s a more effective method than a carbon tax to reduce carbon emissions quickly enough to slow climate change, I haven’t yet seen it. A tax on carbon would slow our fossil fuel consumption and force us to innovate in the more sustainable directions of lowered consumption and renewable energy.

British Columbia enacted a carbon tax earlier this month, and the European Union started its carbon trading program in 2005. With all the brilliant minds, Nobel prize winners and history of innovation in our country, why are we laggards instead of leaders in dealing with climate change? John Edwards came the closest to a stand of integrity in this arena, and I regretted his exit from the ring.

Can Ralph Nader help us here? Two accounts, one for each side of his duality:

My friend Joe had dinner with him in Seattle in the 90’s. Joe said Nader kept dickering with the server over whether the fish was fresh or frozen, more rolls free of charge or not, and on and on, being a fussbudget. In contrast, I heard Nader speak in 2002 at Lewis and Clark college here in Portland, Oregon. But his haranguing style in this context was that of a big-picture warrior, attacking abuses, protecting the vulnerable, confronting powerful corporations.

There is no bigger-picture problem than global warming, no greater abuse than not curbing it, no way in which the poor are more vulnerable or corporations more needy of confrontation. If Ralph Nader can be an on-topic firebrand instead of an off-topic fussbudget, i.e. make a national carbon tax a hot topic, then I welcome his hat in the ring.