My friends and fellow citizens have been pushing for a carbon control act that I feel compelled to respond to, first as an atmospheric scientist and also as a compassionately concerned citizen.
I think we have fooled ourselves with the idea that a carbon tax will have any effect on the centuries of carbon expelled into the atmosphere as waste from our capitalist culture. Capitalism converts limited natural resources into inert cultural consumption, spewing its waste into the air and ocean.
Scientific studies are showing that climate predictions first made around 40 years ago are coming true now. Scientists know that there is a lag effect between carbon emitted today and the effect it will have on the future climate. Climate is in flux, it is happening now.
Personally, I find a frugal lifestyle in itself rewarding and yet I know that the only way that humanity will ever manage carbon intentionally is when all humanity acts together. As a scientist, I see little likelihood that people will act effectively in time.
As a citizen, I see no way for a carbon tax to be anything but a pain to those of low income or on a fixed budget, no way that a bureaucracy like Social Security will be unnecessary, no way that those in opposition will not resist as happened in France, no way that it will not be death to tourism and any number of other business concerns. And especially, no way that it will alter the course of climate change.
There are benefits to certain plant, insect and animal communities brought about by excess carbon dioxide and climate change. They are adapting and we must consider that as our human default condition too.
Playing "carbon footprint" games seems to me like so much fiddling as Rome burns. We need global warming, not in climate, rather in our human relationships, both to one another and to nature. The failure is ours alone; the victory may be ours as well, yet we need to attain and maintain right relations in all we do in order to survive.
To expect a capitalist solution to a problem created by capitalism itself is futility. We can neither tax nor spend our way out of this. We have to see ourselves as an organic whole, all of life on Earth that is, no exceptions. We need to experience the satisfaction of frugality after our hangover of excess.
The thing that disappoints me most about our failure is that I know of no one who has sought to actually understand the natural atmosphere. As a "best educated city in America," all I can say is that we have uniformly remained dismally ignorant of weather and climate throughout the time we scientists have been warning of imminent climate change. We freak out over "chem trails," yet never lift a finger to learn why they are fake.
Even here we take the weather and atmosphere for granted, complaining and spitting raspberries at its variances. Gratitude for one of the most benign climates of the world, not just as you want it always, might start at least a few among the schoolchildren discovering this wonder of nature, our atmosphere, that gives us the breath of life.
So please quit trying to cheat me. Tell me no more lies. When we share, we are far richer than when we compete. When we are humble, knowledgeable and grateful, our lives and times may be fulfilled.