Thursday, December 4, 2008

James Hansen favors Carbon Tax

I'm surprised and pleased that I agree with the Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), James Hansen, on the need for a Carbon Tax. IMHO, Hansen has gone overboard in his dire predictions regarding human-caused Global Warming. GISS, his agency, has come in for some criticism here for what appears to be some bias in Global Warming data.

Nevertheless he is right on this one!

My support for a punitive Carbon Tax goes back many years and is well documented on this Blog: (July 2007, May, October, and November 2008).

An Opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal brought Hansen's statement to my attention. (The chart above is from Hansen's June 2008 presentation.)

With gasoline at $2 or less, and the memory of $4 and more clearly in mind, NOW is the right time to impose a $1/gallon carbon tax.

Hansen calls his proposal "Tax and 100% dividend" because it will apply equally to all forms of sequestered carbon (coal, oil, natural gas) and all of it will be returned, equally per-capita, to everyone with a Social Security number.

Other than collecting and distributing the carbon tax dividend, the government will have no role in using these revenues to select the specific alternative energy solution that will arise. By making carbon-based energy relatively more expensive, the carbon tax will spur consumers to conserve energy and also to select products that utilize alternative, non-taxed, energy. The tax will thus put an umbrella over researchers and corporations working on all sorts of alternative energy without imposing the heavy (and politicaly motivated) hand of government "experts" to tip the balance in favor of any one.

The proposed carbon tax will be revenue-neutral, returning money to the people. The tax will also be ultra-progressive since it returns the money equally per-capita while the rich will be paying most of the tax because they use more energy and products that require energy to produce and transport.

Here are some direct quotes from Hansen's remarks:

Tax and 100% dividend can drive innovation and economic growth with a snowballing effect. Carbon emissions will plummet far faster than in top-down or Manhattan projects. A clean environment that supports all life on the planet can be restored.

... Principles must be crystal clear and adhered to rigorously. A tax on coal, oil and gas is simple. It can be collected at the first point of sale within the country or at the last (e.g., at the gas pump), but it can be collected easily and reliably. You cannot hide coal in your purse; it travels in railroad cars that are easy to spot.

“Cap” [and trade of carbon credits] ... may do as much harm as good. ...

The entire carbon tax should be returned to the public, with a monthly deposit ...

A carbon tax will raise energy prices, but lower and middle income people, especially, will find ways to reduce carbon emissions so as to come out ahead. Product demand will spur economic activity and innovation. The rate of infrastructure replacement, thus economic activity, can be modulated by how fast the carbon tax rate increases. Effects will permeate society. Food requiring lots of carbon emissions to produce and transport will become more expensive and vice versa – it is likely, e.g., that the UK will stop importing and exporting 15,000 tons of waffles each year. There will be a
growing price incentive for life style changes needed for sustainable living.

The present political approach is to set carbon emission reduction goals for 2025 or 2050. The politicians do not expect the goals to be reached, and they define escape hatches that guarantee they will not. They expect to be retired or become lobbyists before the day of reckoning. The goals are mainly for bragging rights: “mine is bigger than yours!”

The worst thing about the present inadequate political approach is that it will generate public backlash. Taxes will increase, with no apparent benefit. The reaction would likely delay effective emission reductions, so as to practically guarantee that climate would pass tipping points with devastating consequences for nature and humanity.

Carbon tax and 100% dividend, on the contrary, will be a breath of fresh air, a boon and boom for the economy. The tax is progressive, the poorest benefitting most, with profligate energy users forced to pay for their excesses. Incidentally, it will yield strong incentive for aliens to become legal; otherwise they receive no dividend while paying the same carbon tax rate as everyone.

Special interests and their lobbyists in alligator shoes will fight carbon tax and 100% dividend tooth and nail. They want to determine who gets your tax money in the usual Washington way, Congress allocating money program-by-program, substituting their judgment for that of the market place. The lobbyists can afford the shoes. Helping Washington figure out how to spend your money is a very lucrative business.

But we can save the planet and alligators by making sure that not one thin dime of the carbon tax is siphoned off by lobbyists for their clients – 100% must be returned to citizens as dividend. Make this your motto: “100% or fight! No alligator shoes!”

Check the position of your congresspersons. If they spout things like “global warming is the greatest hoax in the history of the universe”, check the shoes of the people who visit them or have dinner with them. Changes in Congress are needed if we want our children and grandchildren to win this one.

Because of great benefits to the nation, humanity and nature, this approach soon would be adopted by other nations, providing an obvious path toward international agreements. (Jim Hansen)

Ira Glickstein


joel said...

While I agree with Hansen about a carbon tax, it's too tempting. There's no way that government can just refund the money and keep its mitts off. Why do we keep putting pots of money in front of these scoundrels and then complain when they steal?

I wouldn't go with a "cap and trade" or "carbon tax" until we figure out what is actually going on. If it had to happen I would make the plan's implementation contingent on the final approval of ten new nuclear reactors. Governments can't even manage the world monetary system, how to we expect them to plan planetary temperature? See for an interesting recent take on the science.

It's the history of the world that politicians use fear and panic to strip the population of liberty and treasure. Witness the recent spectacle of both democrats and republicans rushing to vote 700 billion dollars for the administration to spend in whatever way it thinks best. With respect -Joel

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Joel for the link I recommend everyone click and read it.

The thing we both like about Hansen's ideas of "Carbon Tax and 100% Dividend" is that the government would, as you put it "just refund the money and keep its mitts off."

I share your opinion that "there's no way" the government would not "steal" some of the money for special interests.

In fact, you illustrate the political issue by insisting that you would "make the plan's implementation contingent on the final approval of ten new nuclear reactors." And someone else would make it contingent upon expanding public transportation, and someone else on God knows what.

This Blog has reported some of the scientific evidence that casts doubt on the climate models that predict imminent "tipping point" doom. Gore was wrong when he said the ice core data shows CO2 causing temperature rise. It is the other way round! There is no scientific evidence humans are responsible for most of the observed warming.

However, humans are clearly responsible for some substantial fraction of it. There is no historical precedent for the amounts of sequestered carbon we have been burning, releasing heat energy into the atmosphere. Even if the climate models have the greenhouse effects of CO2 wrong, the heating effects of burning carbon are undeniable. Even carbon-neurtal nuclear energy adds heat to the atmosphere.

There is also the security issue of being dependent upon the volatile Mid-East for world energy. Alternative forms of energy that harness the Sun energy we get daily will reduce the influence of foreign sources. That alone would justify a carbon tax.

Returning the money to the people on a per-capita basis could be justified as a needed economic stimulus. Perhaps packaging the idea that way could get it through the political system as fast as the $700 Billion bailouts for financial institutions.

Ira Glickstein

Ira Glickstein said...

Once again I find myself in agreement with James Hansen, NASA's chief global warming alarmist!

While we disagree on how close we are to some global warming "tipping point" we do agree we must do something about rapidly rising CO2 levels. We both favor a revenue neutral Carbon Tax and oppose the political scam known as "Cap & Trade".

Here is part of a report from Climate Depot:

NASA Warming Scientist James Hansen Hopes Congressional Climate Bill Fails!
Monday, May 04, 2009 By Marc Morano

Washington, DC - NASA scientist James Hansen, perhaps the most vocal voice in the U.S. warning of a man-made global warming crisis, has declared he hopes Congressional efforts to pass a cap-and-trade climate bill fail. "I hope cap and trade doesn't pass, because we need a much more effective approach,” Hansen said during a keynote lecture at Columbia University's climate conference on May 2, 2009.

Hansen urged Congress to “abandon cap-and-trade initiatives altogether and implement a simple carbon tax instead” according to a May 4, 2009 article titled "Hansen hopes lawmakers' cap-and-trade approach to climate will fail" in the trade publication E&E News.

Hansen also ridiculed international efforts to control emissions. The Kyoto Protocol "didn't do anything to global emissions. We need real action, not just another Kyoto Protocol,” Hansen said according to the article. Hansen has previously called global warming cap-and-trade 'ineffectual.”

Hansen also lamented that the public continues to be apathetic man-made global warming fears and cited recent public opinion polls showing American's are not concerned about the issue.

Carbon trading 'verging on a gigantic scam'

Hansen's rejection of global warming cap-and-trade legislation was echoed earlier this year when James Lovelock, the UK's loudest voice promoting man-made climate fear, denounced carbon trading as “verging on a gigantic scam.” “Most of the 'green' stuff is verging on a gigantic scam. Carbon trading, with its huge government subsidies, is just what finance and industry wanted. It's not going to do a damn thing about climate change, but it'll make a lot of money for a lot of people and postpone the moment of reckoning,” Lovelock said according to a January 23, 2009 article in the New Scientist.

Both Hansen and Lovelock join other believers in man-made global warming in rejecting the Congressional cap-and-trade approach. University of Colorado Professor Dr. Roger Pielke Jr., accepts the UN IPCC view of global warming, but dismisses cap-and-trade as “tax and charade.”

“Cap-and-trade is simply not up to the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Pielke Jr., who is in the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at University of Colorado, wrote on September 18, 2008. “It is high time we started calling cap and trade what it really is — tax and charade,” he added.

On February 7, 2009, Pielke declared the declaration that “the political consensus surrounding climate policy is collapsing and bluntly called the current carbon trading based policy proposals to address man-made global warming “fictional and fantasy.”

“The political consensus surrounding climate policy is collapsing. If you are not aware of this fact you will be very soon,” Pielke, Jr. Wrote. According to Pielke, Jr., the collapse “is due to the fact that policy makers and their political advisors (some trained as scientists) can no longer avoid the reality that targets for (emission) stabilization such as 450 ppm (or even less realistic targets) are simply not achievable with the approach to climate change that has been at the focus of policy for over a decade. Policies that are obviously fictional and fantasy are frequently subject to a rapid collapse.”

Climate Bill 'May Increase Emissions'

Even environmental group are now warning that the proposed climate bill may increase emissions.

Pielke's January prediction of the “collapse” of the “consensus” about climate policy seems to be coming true as Congressional Democrats now appear to be backing away from any quick passage of global warming cap-and-trade legislation.

The estimated costs of the proposed Congressional cap-and-trade legislation -- during a massive economic downturn -- are also playing a key role slowing down legislation.

Ira Glickstein