Tuesday, June 28, 2016

James Hansen:  The Climate…in Your Backyard

Dr James Hansen, pictured in 2012 (Photograph Credit: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian) Click to Enlarge.
HEFFNER: I’m Alexander Heffner your host on The Open Mind.  Joining me today is perhaps the world’s most famous climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, Director of Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
HEFFNER: People in our industry have a tendency – not this show, per se – to hyperbolize.  And so I asked you off-camera – I wanted to give you the courtesy of clarifying – people know your perspective and the science that substantiates it, but I wanted to ask you to elaborate:  Why a “fraud” or a “fake,” the Paris talks?

HANSEN: Yeah, absolutely.  Because it’s not going to reduce the emissions globally.  You know, it’s analogous to the Kyoto Protocol.  People clapped themselves on the back after that and pretended that it was addressing the problem, and emissions accelerated.  You know, as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy, then people will keep burning them, so.  But they are…  Of course, they are not really the cheapest, because they don’t include the cost to society:  The effect of fossil fuels on human health…on, um, on climate change.  We need to include those costs in the price of the fuels.
Even if you band together with millions of people and try to reduce your emissions, there are billions of people on the planet, and there are many countries where they want to raise the people out of poverty, and they are going to burn fossil fuels, if there is no alternatives.  So we have to have… We have to effect policies.  Uh, governments have to step up to the job. And the job has to include making the price of fossil fuels honest, it’s very simple. And if governments would try to explain this to the public:  You know, that you are gonna have to… The price of fuel at the pump is going to go up.  But if the money that’s collected from the fossil fuel companies is given to the public, most people can come out ahead.  So this could be explained, um…  There was the director of the…an organization called Republicans for the Environment…who said, Gee, this makes a lot of sense.  You could explain this in a, in a two minute elevator talk.  Well, uh, so there are people who understand this, but our politicians are still too much bound by the special interests and the lobbyists and the fossil fuel money.  And the public is confused because they see advertisements on television from “I am an energy voter.”  The fossil fuel company makes it sound very logical:  Oh, the… ..More oil in North Dakota is making the United States more energy independent and creating jobs….  Uh, yeah, it sounds logical.  Unfortunately, it’s not actually what’s in our best interest, in the long run.

HEFFNER: When you describe – in the minutes we have remaining – when you describe that process by which the public would monetarily benefit – get a fee that is, that the fossil fuel companies are subjected to.  How, how would you ensure that the money going to the public is not thrust back into the vicious cycle of the present scheme?

HANSEN: Sure.  And on the first day that you get your dividends, you may go out and, and spend money on fuel for your present vehicle.  But the next time you buy one, you would like to come out ahead.  And, and you know, everything that you buy is affected by fossil fuel prices – some things more than others – so it will automatically be included… You will… When you buy things, you will tend to buy things that do not have as heavy a tax on them.

HEFFNER: It’s, it’s about creating a disincentive.  That…


HEFFNER: …is the number one…

HANSEN: Right.

HEFFNER: …principle goal…

HANSEN: Yeah, yeah.  And as the economic studies show, …  People will…  Many people will change their practices, because they have other things to use their money for.  They don’t want to waste it on fossil fuels, if they have alternatives.
HANSEN: Well, uh, no one has adopted, um, a revenue neutral, carbon fee.  I have gone to about a dozen different countries and tried to persuade, um, them of such a model.  It turns out that the fossil fuel industry is powerful in all governments that I have, uh, become acquainted with… So the public is gonna have to understand this.  Um, it’s not easy.  But, uh, the future for our children and grandchildren depends upon us getting this right, and doing it soon.

HEFFNER: Is there a country that’s come close, remotely close, to what you are imagining?

HANSEN: Well, there, there are… Sweden is a good example of a country that de-carbonized its electricity.  And that’s the most fundamental requirement for solving the climate problem. Because, although they still have a carbon footprint because their vehicles are using petrol…are using carbon based fuels.  But you can make, uh, fuels, once you have carbon-free electricity.  So they, uh, have a lot of hydro power, and they have built nine nuclear power plants.  So they have completely carbon-free electricity.  So they have come the closest.  They have the smallest carbon footprint.

Read more at James Hansen:  The Climate…in Your Backyard

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