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Jim Hansen’s carbon solution recommendations

March 26, 2007

Jim Hansen’s been offering his expert scientific testimony on climate change at least since 1988 and he’s going to keep on doing so, despite White House efforts in recent years to vet his remarks first.

James E. HansenSpeaking at American University in February, Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies [PHOTO COURTESY NASA], laid out this five-part strategy to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions:

1. A moratorium on coal-fired power plants, pending the availability of technology to capture CO2 and sequester it beneath ocean sediments, where it is inherently stable. Hansen said coal-fired plants that lack sequestration must be phased out over the next several decades. Although sequestration technology is about a decade away, insisting on energy efficiency can work in the interim.

2. A carbon tax, accompanied by investment in technology.

3. Energy efficiency standards. Power companies should be given incentives so they make more money for selling customers less energy. An incentives strategy is essential, Hansen said, one that would remove the structural barriers to efficiency.

4. A study by the National Academies of Science, commissioned by Congress, on the stability of the polar ice shelf. We are at — or may have passed — the tipping point for a ripple effect on warming temperatures, melting ice and rise in sea level.

5. A serious examination of the threats to American democracy. The public has a right to know, Hansen said. What’s needed is a professional public affairs office, not one that’s run by political appointees at the agency level. Scientists should be able to present unfiltered testimony to Congress, not vetted first by the White House. And this examination of American democracy should be accompanied by effective campaign finance reform. (Note: Hansen’s slide presentation explicitly states “Any statements relating to policy are personal opinions.”)

Hansen said it isn’t current emissions that determine the climate effect. Total integrated emissions over time, for all emissions, not just CO2, are what matter. Even though China is on a certain path to exceed the U.S. in CO2 emissions, the U.S. contribution to climate change is so much greater than any other country that American policy-makers of the not-so-distant future will have to answer not only to their own constituents but to the rest of the world as well.

To reduce CO2 emissions in any kind of meaningful way, Hansen said we need all three of the following:

  • Energy efficiency & conservation (more efficient technology, & lifestyle changes)
  • Renewable and CO2-free energy (hydro; solar-wind-geothermal; nuclear)
  • CO2 capture & sequestration

He concluded with encouragement to look at the upcoming Step It Up, Congress campaign, a nationwide series of rallies on April 14 initiated by Bill McKibben.

Charts

 

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