Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Speaking Truth to Power -- and to Friends - by James Hansen

James Hansen at People's Climate March.  (Credit: citizensclimatelobby.org) Click to enlarge.
Sometimes it's easier to speak truth to power than to speak truth to friends -- I refer not to friends you know well, but to compatriots fighting for the same good cause.

Once when I was giving a public talk at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, where I was about to be presented an award by Governor Brown, who was sitting in the front row, I described California's newly minted cap-and-trade program as "half-baked" and "half-assed".  I admit to being tactless, but it got his attention, which was my intention.

Golden Opportunities.  Governor Brown is a smart man.  Based on our discussions over dainties before my talk and another discussion after the ceremony, I believe he may realize that he missed a golden opportunity.  California is one place that could have demonstrated an approach to the energy & climate problem that could have a huge national and global impact.

There is a crying need for some place, preferably a place that is reasonably large, to demonstrate an energy & climate approach with the potential to go global, an approach designed to allow amplifying feedbacks that lead to rapid phase-out of fossil fuels as the price of fossil fuels becomes honest.  The only proposed system with those characteristics is a simple transparent revenue neutral carbon fee/tax.  For the sake of spurring the economy and broad public support, the funds should be distributed 100% to the public, an equal amount to all legal residents.

A simple across-the-board national carbon fee/tax can promptly be near-global via border duties on products from countries that do not have an equivalent fee.  But why bug the Governor after his horse is out of the barn?  California, Oregon & Washington, are well-suited to show the world a system that works, designed for the public, not for special interests -- and they still could.

Speaking Truth to Power -- and to Friends - by James Hansen0

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