A plea from Jim Hansen
An honest, gradually rising, price on carbon, making fossil fuels pay their costs to society,
including externalities, makes economic sense and is needed for rapid phase-down of fossil fuels.
Other things are needed, but the base requirement is an across-the-board universal carbon fee.
Scientists should not accept fossil fuel scenarios foisted on us by compliant government
agencies. Instead, we should help define carbon emission scenarios that avoid growing regional
climate extremes and climate tipping points that can cause disintegration of ice sheets and largescale extermination of species. Those government agencies, virtual arms of the fossil fuel
industry, have a bad record in projecting energy requirements. Even in the U.S., with little effort
to control energy use growth during the past few decades, reality forces energy agencies to
continually revise downward their projections (cf. Fig. 3 in “Storms of My Grandchildren”).We must stanch a pervasive defeatism that is about. Humanity is not a bunch of lemmings
marching unstoppably toward a cliff. There is such a thing as free will. It seems that many
people have slipped into an unhelpful resignation, ultimately leading to a way of thinking that
accepts fossil fuel industry propaganda.
People please wake up! For the sake of young people, future generations, and other life on our
planet, don’t settle for what some “experts” say is the best we can do. In fact, we can move on to
clean energies and energy efficiency, but only if we are wise enough to put an honest rising price
on carbon emissions. It is equally clear, I submit, that the public will only allow an adequate
rising price on carbon if the system is simple and transparent with the proceeds distributed to the
public. That will provide the public with the resources required to make the needed changes as
we move to cleaner energies and a bright future that preserves the planet and life that we know.