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Modeling: (1) Revenue Neutral Carbon Taxes; (2) Accelerated atmospheric C02 concentrations
(1) Create a model where all "entities'' pay a (possibly international) tax for burning fossil carbon into a pool, from which all taxpayers get an annual payment more or less equally distributed.
(2) Over the last 200 years, the oceans have absorbed about 50% of CO2 emissions, now the marginal rate is down to 30%–while the rate of emissions has grown from 1 tonne/year/person to greater than 1 tonne/person/year. What might be the expected increases in ppm by volume in CO2 concentrations in the near future.
Modeling a carbon tax shows students how our society actually functions, cf., centralized versus distributed/democratic decisions making. It highlights both obstacles and opportunities. It also encourages student to analyze the economic structure of society, flows, and the implications of decisions. The second part shows the urgency of stopping the burning of fossil carbon.
Prepares students to build effective coalitions
Engages students in civil discourse/ communications that lead to more effective decisions
Catalyzes collective actions
Shows how a math model can clarify implications of decisions
Encourages self-reflection and promotes creative visioning around sustainable futures
Clearly ``higher order,'' i..e., synthesizing multiple topics together in a single model, is involved/skills developed
Context for Use
These activities can be done using no more than arithmetic, greatly facilitated by using a (computer) spreadsheet, for example.
The tax example can easily get interdisciplinary, involving economics and political science–as well as the physics of carbon consumption/emissions.
The second part can be approached in a similar fashion using arithmetic (and spreadsheets), but for more advanced students calculus and differential equations can be used.
Description and Teaching Materials
``Mathematics for the Environment,'' by Martin Walter,
CRC Press/Taylor&Francis Group, 2011.