The Case For an International Oxygen Tax

How to save the world from CO2 heating? Pay those who create oxygen! That's right. We consumers who are using up oxygen and creating this surplus of carbon must pay people to keep their forests, jungles, living oceans for the oxygen they grow.
10/09/2015 04:58 pm ET Updated Oct 09, 2016

How to save the world from CO2 heating? Pay those who create oxygen! That's right. We consumers who are using up oxygen and creating this surplus of carbon must pay people to keep their forests, jungles, living oceans for the oxygen they grow. Because by creating oxygen they are sequestering CO2. We must all pay for that carbon we are creating. And we all need the oxygen they are creating.

But good luck on making this happen in the present set-up. Honestly, why would anyone limit their carbon-creating economies when they are the basis of "advanced" countries' wealth? Why would General Motors or Russian gas oligarchs turn off the tap that feeds them? Why would China abandon the extraction of African resources, or India not buy the enormous coal deposits it seeks to tap next to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, earth's largest living organism?

Why would the settler in the Brazilian jungle forbear from cutting down his patch to create fields so he can grow and sell soy beans and cattle for burgers at McDonald's? Why would the Palm Oil Kings of Borneo cut their palms down and start returning their carbon-creating monocrop to the carbon-sequestering diversity of jungle? I mean, they're probably all nice people, but they're not stupid. They have to make a living in the economy and the activities it rewards.

The time of asking everyone -- and especially Developing World political leaders -- to Do The Right Thing for us addicted Industrial World polluters is over. It won't work. Especially when industrialized countries are the greatest per capita consumers of oxygen and creators of CO2 (the U.S., with a twentieth of the world's population, still consumes a fifth of the world's energy).

The fact is, no-one has the financial incentive to expand oxygen creation or lower carbon production. Just as the early European settlers in North America or Europe or Argentina or Australia or New Zealand had no incentive to not cut down the forests and create farms, 200 years ago, so today, peoples in the tropical regions especially, along with global fishing nations like South Korea and Japan, survive by exploiting the bejeebers out of all the resources Mother Earth has to offer.

I spent one holiday at my cousin Bob Rayson's farm in Bordertown South Australia hauling out stumps from the myriad trees he had spent his entire lifetime cutting and burning down to create fields for sheep.

The problem is that fish, sheep, cattle, tapioca, oil have value we recognize. Their producers and exploiters are paid in dollars and cents for producing them. We assign value to the Brazilian farmer's soy beans. We reward him in money for the burger meat his cattle provide.

But the jungle he's about to cut down? Oh no. We won't assign value to his little portion of the Lungs of the Earth and the work it does right now, creating the oxygen we all need, flourishing as jungle, forest and ocean ecosystems, pumping out oxygen and sequestering the carbon that's threatening to kill us.

What must we do to turn this around?

We must provide a positive incentive -- yes, money -- to >pay those who grow...oxygen! Just like oil, soy beans and tapioca, oxygen is a commodity, a limited commodity. It needs to be produced! Nurtured, valued, grown, like all other commodities essential to our survival.

How? Tune in to the next blog.