Citizen Action Monitor

“This is really a total fraud,” says climate scientist James Hansen about COP21

What Obama is proposing is “totally ineffectual.”

No 1529 Posted by fw, December 4, 2015

redflag-2“Remarkably, [COP21] is not much different than Kyoto except that, here, they’re not even requiring any connection among the different countries. They’re just saying, well, each country, tell us what you’re going to do to reduce your emissions. And at the same time, they allow fossil fuels to be the cheapest energy. Of course, they’re not, really, if you include their cost to society — and that’s what we should do; we should add a rising fee to the fossil fuel price. It would be very easy to do at the domestic mine or port of entry, a very small number of places. But instead we’re just saying, well, let’s try harder. We’ll give you a plan. We’re going to reduce our emissions. Although, some countries are not even saying that.”James Hansen

In 1988, James Hansen first warned about the dangers of climate change when he testified before Congress. At the time he was NASA’s top climate scientist. He would go on to become the nation’s most influential climate scientist. Hansen is now the Director of Climate Science at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. This is his first appearance at a U.N. climate change summit. He is in Paris to warn world leaders that they are on the wrong track to prevent dangerous global warming.

In a wide-ranging Democracy Now interview, Hansen jumps back and forth among several topics, including: revenue-neutral carbon fee as the only effective way to cut CO2 emissions fast enough to avert catastrophic climate change; the ineffectiveness of Obama’s proposals; support for a carbon fee from conservatives and industry; the failure of presidential candidates of both parties to propose what is actually needed; the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet as the biggest driver to catastrophic sea level rise; and the failure of governments to deal with the climate change threat.

At the end of the interview, when asked about the importance of grassroots activism, Hansen responds:

We need grassroots support and now people have to actually understand what’s needed because the leaders, you know, you would think you just tell them, we want to solve the problem. That’s not enough. You’ve actually got to tell them what to do.

Below is a 13:33-minute embedded video of the interview with Hansen, accompanied by a greatly abridged and edited transcript, and added subheadings. Alternatively, click on the following linked title to watch the interview and access the full transcript.

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Climate Scientist James Hansen Warns World is on Wrong Track to Prevent Runaway Global Warming by Democracy Now, November 4, 2015

ABRIDGED AND EDITED TRANSCRIPT

The U.N. is on the wrong track if it aims to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius

This [COP21] is really a total fraud. We’re not going to reduce emissions as long as we let fossil fuels be the cheapest form of energy. Everybody would be better off if the price of fossil fuels was honest. It should include its cost to society.

The most efficient and effective way to reduce emissions is to add a rising fee to the fossil fuel price

Remarkably, [COP21] is not much different than Kyoto except that, here, they’re not even requiring any connection among the different countries. They’re just saying, well, each country, tell us what you’re going to do to reduce your emissions. And at the same time, they allow fossil fuels to be the cheapest energy. Of course, they’re not, really, if you include their cost to society — and that’s what we should do; we should add a rising fee to the fossil fuel price. It would be very easy to do at the domestic mine or port of entry, a very small number of places. But instead we’re just saying, well, let’s try harder. We’ll give you a plan. We’re going to reduce our emissions. Although, some countries are not even saying that.

What Obama is proposing is totally ineffectual

Are these people stupid or are they just uninformed? Are they badly advised? I think that [Obama] really believes he’s doing something. You know, he wants to have a legacy, a legacy having done something in the climate problem. But what he is proposing is totally ineffectual. I mean, there are some small things that are talked about here, the fact that they may have a fund for investment and invest more in clean energies, but these are minor things. As long as fuels are dirt cheap, people will keep burning them.

Collect a fee from the fossil fuel companies and redistribute all of it in equal amounts to every legal resident

It should be an across-the-board carbon fee and in a democracy the money should be given to the public. You collect the money from the fossil fuel companies. The rate would go up over time, but the money should be distributed 100 percent to the public; an equal amount to every legal resident.

Those people who do better than average in limiting their fossil fuel use, would make money. Wealthy people, people who fly around the world a lot and have big houses, they would pay more in increased prices than they would get in their monthly dividend.

You collect money from fossil fuel companies and you distribute it equally to all residents. So the one who does better than average in limiting his fossil fuel use will get more than the dividend that he pays in increased prices.

This will move industry and businesses to develop no-carbon and low-carbon energies and products that use little fossil fuels. In fact, the economic studies show that the United States, after 10 years, emissions would be reduced 30 percent because you have the economy forcing you in the right direction. But as long as you just leave fossil fuels cheap, you’re not going to fundamentally change things.

Even leading conservatives are willing to accept a revenue-neutral carbon fee

We should not be subsidizing any [energy sources, fossil fuels or renewable]. Let this carbon price ride. That will favor renewables, it will favor energy efficiency, it will favor nuclear power. It will favor anything that is carbon-free. That’s the way we should do it. And that’s the way conservatives would accept it. This is a revenue neutral approach which does not make the government bigger. And I’ve talked to some leading conservatives and — who understand that this is not a hoax, that climate change is not a hoax, and they are willing to accept this concept of a revenue-neutral* carbon fee. [*For an excellent explanation of revenue-neutral carbon fee or tax, see What is a carbon tax? published by the British Columbia Ministry of Finance.]

No presidential candidate in either party is proposing what is actually needed

Well, there are some nut cases who claim that it’s all a hoax, and that’s absurd. And I think most of the public recognizes that. You may get a fraction of one party that is — that likes that point of view, but the majority of the public realizes that’s nonsense. But I haven’t seen any candidate, liberal or conservative, who is proposing what is actually needed, and that’s making the price of fossil fuels honest, but not taking the money to make the government bigger, instead, give it to the public.

And in fact, Democrats, Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer, proposed a bill that was basically a fee and dividend, except the government was going to take 40 percent of the money. And that makes it — it’s not going to work. I mean, first of all, conservatives are never going to accept that. That makes it a tax. A tax depresses the economy.

A carbon fee would spur the economy

A carbon fee and dividend actually spurs the economy, because there is some income redistribution. The low income people will tend to have a better chance to come out ahead in this case, and they tend to spend the money when they get their dividend.

The collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet would be catastrophic to coastal regions worldwide

A sea level rise [of several meters is the biggest threat that climate change has in store for us because it would mean that all coastal cities would become dysfunctional. And the economic consequences of that are incalculable. And the number of refugees that you would have — a hundred million people in Bangladesh, which, most of them would be — have to find some place to go. So, it’s something — it’s hard to imagine how we can have a governable world if we let the Antarctic ice sheet collapse. We need to keep a sea level relatively stable or we have economic consequences that are enormous.

To prevent sea level rise emissions must be cut at least a few percent per year, and that requires a carbon fee

You do that by phasing down emissions rapidly, at least a few percent per year. And the only way that will happen is if we have a carbon fee. Because otherwise, you know, somebody is going to keep burning it. These countries are saying, OK, we’re going to reduce our emissions 30 percent. But what does that do when the price remains cheap? Somebody else will burn it. That just makes the price even cheaper. If it’s less dear. So you have to make the fossil fuel price honest.

Most captains of industry want to be part of the solution

Most of the captains of industry actually say they would like to be part of the solution. They have children and grandchildren too. So, if our government would give them the incentives to do that by putting a rising fee on carbon, they would love to be part of the solution. I think that’s true for most captains of industry, as I call them.

Governments are to blame for the failure to address climate change. They’re perpetuating a fraud at COP21

But our governments are not doing that. So I really blame it on our governments. They pretend that they’re doing something, like what they’re doing here. This is a fraud. They’re not — they should be smart enough to understand that the policies that they are proposing here are not going to make a significant reduction in global emissions.

Grassroots action is useful but only a price on carbon can save us

[Grassroots support] is useful, but only we if get a price on carbon, because that’s — the only way we’ll keep that in the ground is with a rising fee on carbon so that we get other energies to replace the fossil fuels.

We need grassroots support to tell the leaders what to do because they don’t know

We need grassroots support and now people have to actually understand what’s needed because the leaders, you know, you would think you just tell them, we want to solve the problem? That’s not enough. You’ve actually got to tell them what to do.

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