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Senior Correspondent

In previous columns I have described the work of Uncommon Good. This “Not for Profit” organization has three major foci. It provides a way for young physicians to work in underserved poor neighborhoods; it follows mainly minority kids from grade school to college; it develops urban farms. (Since I serve on the Board of Directors, I confess a positive prejudice).

In the last year we have completed a million dollar super-adobe headquarters, best known throughout the nation for its zero carbon footprint. Most of the construction money came indirectly from the  ExxonMobil Corporation, which is strange because this energy giant is one of the nation’s biggest causes of air pollution. A lawsuit was the avenue for the award. We were granted the money because, among other things, we are in the clean air business. The polluters had to pay! We got the benefit. Herein lies an early indication that if you harm the air all of us breathe, you may be subject to a heavy penalty. The implication for a way to get a handle on global warming is staggering!

If a cost must accompany pollution, the threat itself may produce big bucks. Spewing carbon-produced CO2 into the air could become very expensive. The answer may well be a hefty tax on every ton of carbon produced — which will directly impact fossil fuel industries.

 The vast majority of the world’s scientists insist that CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels is the main cause for global warming — and global warning threatens the life of the planet.

America’s biggest carbon producers have already seen the writing on the wall. A recent article in the New York Times  (December 5, 2013) describes the growing uneasiness of America’s energy producers. The article reports that major corporations are already gearing up for what may be a carbon tax.

The obvious roadblock lies with Congress. A carbon-tax would require federal legislation. As things stand now, both political parties being under the thumb of America’s corporate interests, it is difficult to see how any realistic carbon tax will be produced. It is a rare legislator who dares take on the sources of funds that provide for her/his re-election. As long as legislators are bought by the highest bidder we simply get what a handful of deep pockets pay for. But the public financing of elections seems a long way off, particularly in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

 I don’t know what it will take to arouse the sensibilities of the world’s people regarding the planet-wide environmental threat. As long as profits, which mean a rise in the stock markets, continue to capture our sensibilities, few will pay attention to the cries of the globe’s scientists. We may do the planet in before we get the message that global warming may kill us all.

Not everyone is content to cry, “Ain’t it a shame,” and sit helplessly by. A budding grass-roots organization, The Citizens Climate Lobby, has developed chapters all across the country, calling for a carbon tax. A number of Congresspersons have already sighed on to their investigation.

Obviously a tax on fossil fuels would hit the consumer with passed-on higher prices. The Citizens Climate Lobby suggests that the revenues generated by the tax would be returned to every American in the form of a cash refund. Under this plan the polluters would pay the bill and the individual taxpayers would get the refund. Of all the plans and groups I know about ready to take on the problem of global warming, this one strikes me as having the sturdiest legs. Among other things, this tax would force the biggest corporate giants to work more closely with the scientific community in developing alternative energy sources.

There is probably a chapter of this organization in your area. If not, start one! For readers of these columns in Southern California, write me and I’ll supply the chapter contact in your area.

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