A weekend conversation about objectives and carbon trading

I had a disagreement with my father yesterday afternoon about what objectives would make a carbon tax more attractive than carbon trading. Ultimately the conversation did not go anywhere because he was sure that my motivating objectives were not clear enough to be the basis for policy development. We both agreed that in the current global climate, a carbon tax seems more feasible to apply.

The problem with my take on objectives is that I saw the issue of how much carbon is being pumped out into the atmosphere as needing to be considered along with issues of lived experience. The irony is that he is so anti-central planning, but he thought that setting quotas was the gold-star policy objective. Of course, he would not see this as being at all contradictory because of his understandings of what science can tell us. Based on my very limited understanding, I fail to see how science can come up with a clear figure of how much carbon is the optimal amount to have pumped out into the atmosphere, but I do believe that even if the effects of carbon being pumped out into the atmosphere are not quite as clear as a lot of the activist science would have us believe, there is something unsustainable about the technologies that happen to also produce carbon (i.e. burning coal for electricity).

I was told that I am confusing objectives with methodology, which sparked off a lot of thoughts about why it is that I am finding writing a plain language proposal so close to impossible. I cannot accept that simple objectives are necessary for effective policy and I think methodology is not so easy to relegate to a second order concern.

However, just because thinking about things in a certain way does not sit well with me does not mean I can pretend it does not matter. The objectives for my research project are messy and are nested. They are deeply intertwined with my notions of what is ethical public policy as well as with methodological and epistemological concerns. Any suggestions as to how I can start to disentangle it all? Is approaching ethnographic research with a clear objective a doomed enterprise?

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