Carbon is the essential building block for all living things.
But life cannot exist without energy.
The primary energy of the solar system is nuclear energy – it powers the sun which floods the Earth with solar radiation; other nuclear reactions release heat deep within the planet. But solar energy alone cannot create or sustain life.
Earth’s primeval atmosphere had three natural gases that contained the essential ingredients for the first plant life – carbon dioxide, the food for plants; water, the drink for plants; and ammonia, which probably supported the first primitive life forms. It also had methane, the first natural (non-fossil) hydro-carbon fuel. Ancient atmospheres had far more methane and carbon dioxide than is present today (but no runaway global warming).
Life emerged in water when primitive plants using solar energy and the magic of photosynthesis took carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to create sugars, fats and proteins in their leaves, stems, roots, seeds and fruits. Their exhaust product was another natural gas – oxygen.
Millions of years passed, and slowly the plants consumed carbon dioxide and added oxygen to the atmosphere.
Primitive animals then evolved; they used oxygen to extract carbon energy stored in plants. They consumed these carbon fuels and exhausted carbon dioxide. Life is truly a carbon equation.
Carbon fuels such as wood, biomass, coal and oil are essentially preserved organic materials that store solar energy. When burnt in air they release stored energy and exhaust the same valuable by-product – carbon dioxide.
The human race depends totally on carbon based foods that are derived from the gas of life, carbon dioxide, plus nitrogen, minerals and water. And since the invention of engines, humans have come to depend on reliable, efficient, energy-dense, portable carbon fuels to grow, harvest, transport, refrigerate, process, distribute and cook food. The exhaust product from all of these engines is an important stimulant to the growth of all plants.
Without carbon dioxide, no life would exist. And without carbon fuels, modern cities would starve within weeks.
A tax on carbon is thus a tax on life.