In an emotionally charged but (IMNSHO) fact-based opinion piece in the New York Times today, NASA exec James Hansen suggests that a gradually accelerating tax on carbon fuel producers that is distributed directly back to citizens could reverse global climate change before it finally imperils civilization.
James Hansen’s Plan for Reversing Climate Change
by Dan Shafer •
Hansen, who’s a lightning rod for the folks on the “business-can-do-no-wrong-so-leave-them-alone” side of the political divide, has been at the forefront of the nearly unanimous group of world scientists warning us about the perils of climate change for decades. In today’s piece, he continues to paint a cataclysmically depressing picture of where things will go if we keep following our present human course. The trouble is, his picture is realistic.
Of particular focus in Hansen’s most recent piece is the tar sands extraction being pursued by Canada. President Obama said in a recent interview that the Canadians were going to go ahead with this incredibly terrible idea for producing the dirtiest large-scale fuel source known to man, regardless of whether the U.S. allows them to run a pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico. Never mind that that course of action is all but impossible for Canada to follow if we don’t allow the pipeline. Hansen points out that this sludge “contain[s] twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history.”
So his idea — which may not be new for all I know but it’s the first I’ve read of it — is simplicity itself. “We should impose a gradually rising carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies, then distribute 100 percent of the collections to all Americans on a per-capita basis every month. The government would not get a penny.” He says that computer models based on this notion show that it would stimulate the economy without growing the government, give most Americans more than they are paying in increased fossil fuel costs, and result in savings six times greater than that projected for the Canadian tar sands project. I think he’s probably underestimating the degree to which the government would grow (we’ll need a new bureaucracy to manage and distribute the funds, right? Can’t trust oil companies to cut all the checks to all the right folks for all the right amounts.)
This seems like an idea that conservatives and liberals alike would support. So of course it won’t happen.
But we clearly must do something or we’re leaving our grandchildren and great-grandchildren in a horrific mess that may well end human civilization.