Thursday, February 01, 2007

Taxing Stupidity

I grew up in Nevada. We would joke among ourselves that the reason we had low sales tax and no income or estate taxes was because the state's share of the cash raked in by the casinos was a tax on stupidity.

If you can harness it, stupidity is a Pyrrhic, perennial bounty in good times or bad.

Now, the French want to tax a different stupidity. The US has an incredibly backward record when it comes to delaying crucial measures against global warming which every citizen of this planet and every country should subscribe to and implement. Within the lifetime of anyone reading this, more species will go extinct than in the preceding millennium. With its economic might pitted against any healthy change, the US has already made the world late in tackling the problem. Stupid consumers, stupid government, both operating without any apparent conscience and for no better purpose than their own near term comforts. A change of conscience by the US might already be too late to stave off a thorough planetary roasting given at least two positive feedback mechanisms that release greenhouse gasses are already starting to kick in:
  1. a warming, snowless arctic releases formerly frozen methane which needs ten years to break down to stable CO2 but is 20 times as effective as CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere
  2. a warming ocean is less effective at absorbing CO2.
[I had a wonderful wool gathering session on the science side of that question but that will be a post for the science blog I am probably never going to start.]

Of course it wont really work. If you hitch your prosperity to the stupid, you perpetuate misery under the cynical guise of providing a gently corrective service for the unreformed. The only decent course would be to reform ourselves instead of playing Teh Stoopid Planet Wasters to the French cop. Chirac will not mend our ways any faster than he mends his own. A NYTimes article points out that Chirac is not one to throw the first stone. Losers just keep coming to Vegas and the beneficiaries of the casino industry stay strung out on losers.

Reform? Study the carbon flow chart in this NASA report. It shows nature would be just about carbon neutral but our yearly fossil carbon input is double any natural imbalance. Burn less. Its that simple, its that difficult. Like other energy addicted nations, our government has been quietly hunting for a new fix for its carbon habit. That is the wrong answer. If Gore gets the Nobel, will anyone in the US use less energy?

UPDATE: Don't y'all find the conincidence of IPCC releasing its findings of certainty that humans are burning up their home planet on the same day that Exxon announces the largest yearly profit [39 billion dollars] of any corporation in recorded history just a tad rich in irony...and no damn coincidence at all?

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