[Report]12th Academic Frontier Lecture Series 2023

On July 7, 2023, Dr. Kohei Saito, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo, delivered a lecture titled “When Air Becomes a Commodity: Carbon Tax, CCS, and Geoengineering.” During the lecture, Dr. Saito raised concerns about the commodification of air and provided a critical perspective on the Academic Frontier Lecture for this fiscal year, which is based on the question of “How should air be valued?” He argued that existing concepts and systems such as economic approaches, capitalism, and market economies are inadequate in addressing the crises caused by current climate change. The reason for this inadequacy lies in the fact that methods such as carbon taxes, emission trading, and carbon offsetting, which involve “putting a price tag on air,” measure the value of nature and ecosystems in terms of market value, while undervaluing other immeasurable aspects and parts that are devalued by the market economy. Furthermore, a crucial concern is that these methods based on capitalism lead to an expansion of exploitation by the Global North, which is responsible for environmental destruction, onto the Global South, burdening them with the crisis of climate change. The potential of carbon offsets to create a “carbon colonialism” where the North acquires land from the South is just one example. Dr. Saito highlighted the necessity of exploring alternatives to capitalism in order to address climate change effectively.