Cambridge Forum; WGBH Forum Network; After Copenhagen: Real Solutions for Global Climate Change
Welcome to Cambridge forum discussing after Copenhagen looking for real solutions to global climate change with James Hansen I'm to my school a member of the forum's board. In December 2009 Copenhagen talks on Global Climate Change failed to produce a new international accord. And our speaker James Hansen is not wasting any time promoting that failure. In fact he didn't go to Copenhagen and he thought it was probably going to fish rather than. You know as it were occurring about that. He has seized upon the opportunity to renew and expand the discussion of climate change and look for new ideas that will lead to real solutions to this global problem. What might the road forward look like. What should scientists turn their attention to. After Copenhagen. What should citizens be doing. Dr. James Hansen first brought global warming to the world's attention in the 1980s when he was the first to testify at great length before Congress. Since then he has pursued a distinguished career in research measuring current climate trends and projecting humankind's potential impacts on climate. In this series of robust models. He's an adjunct professor at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and at Columbia's Earth Institute and director of the NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. And he has continued to bring the problem of global climate change to a broad public audience. Appearing on 60 Minutes ABC News Tonight Anderson Cooper Charlie Rose. And NPR. He's been interviewed in The New York Times and profiled in The New Yorker and has written for The Boston Globe the nation the New York Review of Books and Scientific American. After literally writing hundreds of professional and sometimes popular articles. Mr. Hanssen has just published his first book. Now this is actually quite interesting to academics because we usually rail against the world on a regular basis saying The trouble with the world out there is they haven't yet read the book that I haven't yet written. The fact is he wrote the book now so we can all get a copy and get it signed afterwards but in fact he's gone beyond the confines of scientific research and addressed in this particular book as you can tell from the title. Storms of my grandchildren directly. The problem of intergenerational at the core responsibility.
Welcome to Cambridge forum. James Hansen.
One of the.
Thanks very much for this opportunity to discuss this problem which this issue and this matter which doesn't need to be a problem but we have to discuss it as one because if we stay on the track that we're on it's going to be a big problem for our children and our grandchildren. I made I think a nice PowerPoint presentation on the train on the way up here. And then when I arrived I realized there's no facility for power points.
So I'm how I'm going to look. But I think my charts will actually be preserved in the video form of the record of this discussion. And I'm going to refer to some of the charts and in a way which I can do orally. I was asked to discuss what we should do now after Copenhagen after the stalemate that was reached there. And what are the real what is the real solution. And I have. A. Clear opinion about that as I discuss in my book. So I would like to bring that to you. The first chart that I show is. The temperature of the Earth over the last 65 million years. Because people often say well the climate has often been much different than it is now. So why are we so concerned about human impact on climate. And in fact if you look at the temperature curve for the last 65 million years well at the beginning of that period which is called the Senate era the. Planet was so warm there was no ice on the planet. There were alligators in Alaska. Their sea level was 75 meters higher or 200 almost 250 feet higher.
And we know why we can.
We know that the atmospheric composition at that time had more than a thousand parts per million of carbondioxide. Well now it's three hundred eighty seven parts per million and we know why it changed because on long time scales the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is determined by the balance between the source the natural source of carbon dioxide is volcanoes which are associated with continental drift.
And that varies with time depending upon.
Where the continents are how they're moving in the natural sink is the weathering process the which transports sediments to the ocean and deposits carbonate sediments on the ocean floor. In the process taking CO2 out of the atmosphere well 65 million years ago India was still south of the equator and it was moving north rapidly and 50 million years ago it collided with Asia and began to push up the Himalayan Mountains and the Tibetan plateau. And while it was going through the ocean it was plowing through this ocean that had long been the depo Center for the major rivers of the world. So there was a lot of carbonate sediments and it was spewing CO2 into the atmosphere. And then once it crashed into Asia then that source diminished and the saying associated with weathering it was increased because of the Himalayan Mountains and Tibetan plateau. So the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere gradually declined over the last 50 million years and the planet cooled off over that period thirty four million years ago. It became cool enough that ice and began to form when it Arctic ice.
Eventually it got cool enough that we began to have ice sheet on Greenland and at some times on North America and Asian all those changes that imbalance between the source and sink the natural source and seign of carbon dioxide is of the order of one ten thousandth of a part per million per year. And then in a million years such an imbalance is 100 ppm of CO2 which is a big change and can cause a large climate change. But note that the rate that humans are now causing CO2 to change is 2 ppm per year by burning fossil fuels. So we are now ten thousand times more powerful than the natural forces that tend to cause CO2 to change on long time scales. So from now on humans are in charge of the future changes of atmospheric composition and we're going to determine the future climate changes. And in this temperature curve for the last 65 million years when you look at it carefully you see in the last millions of years there's a rapid oscillation of global temperature associated with the glacial to interglacial changes of climate which you may be familiar with. Twenty thousand years ago there was an ice sheet that covered covered Boston and covered Canada and some of the northern parts of the United States. And the sea level was one hundred ten meters or about 350 feet actually lower than it is now because of the large ice sheets. Those climate oscillations are associated with very minor perturbations of the Earth's orbit which can cause.
The ice sheets.
It will affect the distribution of sunlight at seasonal distribution and geographical distribution on the earth and can cause ice sheets to grow or melt depending upon. The eccentricity of the earth's orbit and the slight tilt of the Earth's axis which these parameters are perturbed by Jupiter and Saturn which which tug on the Earth's orbit and cause the small perturbations. But by means of slow feedback processes the S.. This melting of ice will cause the surface to be slightly darker sort absorbs more sunlight and that makes it a little bit warmer and as the ocean gets a little warmer it releases CO2. So it turns out that these glacial to interglacial oscillations are entirely explained by the the slow feedback processes in response to the small part of nations of the Earth's orbit. Those two feedback processes being the changes in the amount of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere and also the changes in their surface reflectivity of the planet.
If I showed you the graph of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere you would see that those oscillations from glacial to interglacial time have now been completely replaced by a rapid increase of CO2 and methane which has taken the amount of these gases far outside the range that it has been in for millions of years. And the planet is beginning to respond to those changes in atmospheric composition. It takes it time to respond because of the inertia of the system mainly caused by the ocean which is four kilometers deep. It takes it a long time to warm up as the greenhouse gases increase the heating of the of the surface. They do this because. The reduce They absorb heat radiation and therefore reduce the heat radiation to space the same way that a blanket keeps in your body heat. When you put a blanket over your body. So the planet is beginning to warm its warmed by about eight tenths of a degree Celsius about one and a half to Greece Fahrenheit in the last century with most of that warming in the last 30 years.
You don't notice much of a fact in your daily life because weather fluctuations are 10 or 20 or 30 degrees. While this warming is is a couple of degrees Fahrenheit over land areas. But there are many things that we can see if we look around the planet. In for example one of the graphs that I show is the mass of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets which we began to measure with great precision about seven years ago seven or eight years ago with the launch of the amazing gravity satellite which measures the Earth's gravitational field with such a high precision that you can determine changes in the manse of these ice sheets and what we see is that at the beginning of this period both. Greenland was losing mass at a rate of about one hundred fifty cubic kilometers per year. Well that's now increased to about 300 cubic kilometers per year. The rate is a bit slower in Antarctica but it also has doubled over that time period.
A few more doublings of that rate and we will have begin to have the effects that I talk about in storms of my grandchildren. All of the chaos that will occur once these ice sheets begin to disintegrate rapidly and cause the high latitude oceans to be cooler and as the low latitude oceans continue to get warmer we're going to get much stronger mid-latitude cyclonic storms.
There are a number of other phenomena where we can see the ocean is becoming more acid which is causing coral reefs to be under stress. Mountain glaciers are melting all around the world. Climatic zones are beginning to shift to the sub tropics shift pull word as the planet gets warmer and we can see that affecting the Southwest United States the Mediterranean region. In Australia where it's becoming hotter and drier in these places with with more forest fires if we want to stabilize the climate.
We will have to remove the planet's energy imbalance.
One thing we can measure from the change in the rate at which the ocean is increasing its heat content based on very precise measurements of the ocean temperature. We can tell that the planet is out of energy balance by something like half a watt per meter squared or three quarters perhaps three quarters of a watt per meter squared.
That that is enough that it will cause much larger climate changes over the coming decades unless we can remove that energy imbalance and the way that we would do that is to reduce the amount of these greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. To remove a half a watt of imbalance would require taking CO2 back to about 350 parts per million from the present three hundred eighty seven parts per million. But in fact it's continuing to increase.
But if we want to preserve creation the planet on which civilization developed we're going to have to do that. And what that means if you look at how much carbon there is in the individual fossil fuels oil gas and coal you see that coal is by far the largest it's been the biggest contributor to the CO2 increases that have occurred already.
And it has by far the largest reservoirs. We're going to need to phase out coal emissions over the next couple of decades if we want to stabilize and reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
But and we're going to have to prevent the use of unconventional fossil fuels like tar sands and tar shale because they are the dirtiest fuels and they have a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide in them.
But what is really happening.
In the U.S..
We just signed an agreement with Canada for a pipeline to build a pipeline from the tar sands in Canada to bring oil. From these tar sands to the U.S..
And oil shale is beginning to be developed and in an early stage and coal fired power plants are continuing to be built and these have lifetime of 50 or 75 years. So there's a huge gap between the rhetoric about climate change and reality. The rhetoric is that we have a Planet in Peril.
But the reality is that we're continuing with basically business as usual. So it's a case where greenwash is winning. There's no politician who's been analogous to Winston Churchill to stand up and tell the people the truth and what is needed in order to to deal with climate change.
The Kyoto Protocol for example after it was agreed prior to the Kyoto Protocol carbon dioxide emissions were increasing one and a half percent per year. With this cap and trade approach where countries set targets and then they can have offsets so they don't really have to meet those targets.
Emissions actually increased to 3 percent per year after the Kyoto Protocol was the agreed upon. The fundamental problem is that fossil fuels are the cheapest form of energy and as long as that is true we are going to continue to use them and even more so the they're not really cheapest but they are cheapest for people to use because they are subsidized by governments and they are not made to pay the price to society.
They're not made to pay for the costs of the damage to human health that's caused by the mercury in the arsenic and the aerosols that come from burning fossil fuels or the damage to the environment or the damage that our children and grandchildren will realize as climate changes. So.
The solution needs to be a rising price on carbon unless we have that. We're not we're not not going to be able to solve the problem and we shouldn't pretend that any goals for emissions reduction can solve the problem. A price is not sufficient by itself you need regulations for example on vehicle efficiency and building standards.
But you need the carbon price in order to enforce the building standards for example.
And the operation of buildings unless the fuel is costly is simply to ignore many people simply ignore the impact of inefficient use of our facilities.
And technology development is required but again you need a carbon price in order to incentivize that technology development. So my suggestion is that we need to put a simple carbon fee at the mine or the port of entry at them. At the coal mine or the wellhead or the port of entry where the fossil fuel comes into the country and that price that fee needs to gradually rise it would be collected from the fossil fuel company and the total amount of money should be distributed to the public on a per capita basis.
So every legal resident of the country would get an equal amount.
Distributed monthly electronically to their bank account or to their debit card if they don't have a bank account.
And for example by the time the carbon fee reaches the equivalent of $1 a gallon on gasoline the collected money in the United States given the amount of coal oil and gas that we use last year would be six hundred seventy eight billion dollars. If you divide that among the legal residents with half a share for each child up to two children per family it comes to $3000 per person. So for a family of with two or more children it's $1000 a year. Well their energy prices are going to increase also.
The 60 percent of the people using the least amount of carbon would actually get more back in the dividend than they get in increased energy prices but the people who have two houses and big cars and fly around the world a lot would pay a lot more in their increased energy cost and they would get back in the dividend.
But with this that kind of.
A price signal. You would begin. People would begin to take actions because when they recognize that that but carbon fee is going to increase over time the next time they buy a vehicle they'll get a more efficient one and they will take the steps to reduce their emissions by insulating their home or getting more efficient appliances. And that way to keep their fee and to keep their increased energy cost less than the amount they get in the dividend.
But what what Congress was proposing was a cap and trade scheme which is designed by and for big financial institutions. Chase. Chase Morgan Morgan Morgan Chase whatever their name is and Goldman Sachs are the two biggest players in that planning to be in the trading game in the carbon trading game.
There's no need and there's no value added by having that sort of scheme. What you need is a simple honest. Price added for on carbon. With the funds distributed to the public there's no need to give one dime to these financial institutions. And this can be implemented very promptly. British Columbia did something very similar to this they called it tax carbon tax though they passed a law with a carbon tax paid collected from the fossil fuel companies and with the money then used to reduce payroll taxes. And that was is actually very popular with the public. They when the opposition party made it the major issue in the election they ended up losing the election and now they've adopted it as part of their platform.
This kind of a simple honest approach can actually work and it can be get it can be brought into being very promptly.
So what if this fee and Dividend Approach addresses is first of all the economy because it stimulates the economy it puts money in the public's hands. A lot of money. And secondly it addresses the energy problem. Our fossil fuel addiction.
Is the fastest route to a clean energy future. And third it addresses the climate problem and it's the only internationally viable approach. Because there's there's zero chance that China will agree to a cap a cap on its economy or India. There's no chance that they will do that but they recognize they don't want to have a fossil fuel addiction like the United States developed.
So they they actually are ready to negotiate that kind of approach where they would have an internal price on carbon emissions which they collect themselves and they use how they decide to use it. But that's that's the only viable way that I can see for having an agreement between China and the United States and that's the essential requirement in order to solve the climate problem is an agreement between the U.S. and China. And if we had. This gradually rising price on carbon that would result in most coal and unconventional fossil fuels being left in the ground.
Is what we have to do in order to solve the problem.
Now I also have had some charts showing you know despite the fact that the science has become so much clearer over the last few years and the fact that we are very near tipping points that are. We potentially have disastrous consequences on the time scale of this century during the lives of our children and grandchildren.
But despite that fact the public is less informed and less convinced about the US then. Than ever and it has a lot to do with the the people.
Who would prefer not to change business as usual and they've been very effective at MIS informing the public and the scientists are very ineffective at.
Combating that propaganda.
But I was going to show us charts and one of this is another thing that affected the perception of people is a cold weather in December which was an unusually cold month but I could show you the map of the global temperature. In fact.
Although the mid-latitudes and United States in Eurasia were seven or eight degrees Celsius below normal other latitudes were that much above normal and it was actually global The average very warm month. It's just that weather fluctuations are large and you often get cold weather in the winter and it doesn't indicate anything about the reality of the global warming which is proven in many different ways.
But the main point that I want to make is the.
People need to try to put pressure on the political system so that the government would take an honest approach in which they address the fundamental problem which is the fact that as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest source of energy we're going to just keep using them more and more.
But there are ways that we could gradually increase their price in a way that does not have a negative effect on the public. It's not even appropriate to call it a tax you should call it a fee and a dividend you give back every cent that you collect from the fossil fuel companies you give to the public and that will stimulate the economy. It will phase out our addiction to fossil. Fuels and it will solve the climate problem so it's not it's not painful. It does require people to pay more attention to.
Their energy use and especially their fossil fuel use but it's something that makes all kinds of sounds and if we have any interest in preserving a climate for preserving a future for young people we had better do this.
Thanks. To all.
Tweet. When you are joining us to a camera for you. Thanks to listen to James Hansen. Thank you.
Thank you. The floor is open to the public to come and speak at the mike.
Yes Dr. Hansen. My name is Daphne and beyond I reporter and freelance writer. I want to ask you a political question. You're of course you are aware of the Supreme Court decision that came down a couple of days ago giving corporations the power to back their interests with cash. What is your relationship now with the Obama administration. Do you have any good conduit to them Are they listening to you I mean I saw the edited and censored texts of your articles during the Bush administration. Has your relationship with the administration with the president has has not improved.
Thing that you point out about the role of special interests in the government that is the fundamental problem because we have. Two thousand four hundred registered energy lobbyists in Washington which is four times greater than the number of of Congress people and there are many unregistered lobbyists.
And it's just the way our system has developed and it's not a democracy can't really function properly with money.
It's more a case of one dollar one vote than one person one vote. The way it seems to work now I might point out for example that in 2008 Richard Gephardt after retiring from the House Democratic leadership is got a.
Hundred and twenty thousand dollars per quarter from Peabody Coal which is almost half a million dollars a year.
But so that's a problem that we have. That's why the public has got to understand this situation and and demand a an approach which actually is in their interests not in the interest of the special interests.
I think the.
And if you look at it's this is really a difficult situation because if you look at the current administration as I say they say the right words. We have a Planet in Peril. And yet their proposed solution cap and trade is a non-solution.
You can easily demonstrate that it's a non-solution we have the example and there's no way that it can possibly be made global. As I mentioned is China and India are not going to accept a cap saw oil.
Well I think now is our chance actually because of the fact that Copenhagen Copenhagen didn't completely fail the US and China talked to each other and did not walk away. And it is essential that the agreement will be between United States and China. And they did not adapt adopt the cap and trade scheme. And furthermore Congress now realizes that they can't pass this cap and trade scheme. I think and they're beginning to move in the right direction. They're now talking about the possibility of a cap and dividend where they like they've picked up on this idea of a dividend that the money that would be collected in selling the rights to pollute would be distributed at least part of it to the public. But that's not sufficient. You also must have a simple fee a crossed. Oil gas and coal at the minor port of entry you can't do it with these schemes where which allows this. These deals in Congress all sorts of. And the and the offsets there that what they've talked about in the Waxman-Markey bill and in the Kerry Boxer bill allowed offsets so instead of really reducing the carbon emissions you would presumably preserve a forest someplace. Those offsets can be shown to be ineffectual. And you actually have to reduce the carbon emissions. So now I I I have sent a letter I note that. And and John Kerry has now said that they you know need to try different approaches. So I think there's a chance that if this issue can be articulated well enough and if the public has to begin to understand a little bit about what is being talked about there what is the difference between Cap and Trade in fee and dividend because their interests are very much dependent on what is actually. The approach that is used and it just makes so much common sense for the economy or the energy problem and for the climate problem to have a very simple honest approach you don't need a 2000 page bill full of favors to all kinds of special interests that's what the Waxman-Markey bill isn't. And these but these people Markey as you know is one of the friends of the environment. John Kerry is. Barbara Boxer is. And yet they feel that the only way Washington works we've got to make these deals we've got to make a.
Deal with the coal state senators and we have to make a deal with these other guys and give them something but it's all screwing the public.
If you need a simple honest approach and that has got to be understood. And if we don't do that we're not going to solve the problem. So. There is now the failure to move forward to the fact that they realize they can't go ahead with the scheme they were thinking up should cause people to now rethink this and do it in a way that would work for the benefit of. Our children and grandchildren and all the other species on the planet and and actually for the benefit of our economy you know we need a way. To move to the clean energy future and the way you do that is to have the incentive that.
It will cause the entrepreneurs to develop the low carbon technologies and the simple way to do that is with a price on carbon.
Nothing at all is done. What are the chances of reaching that tipping point within the next 10 years. In other words how firm is that timeline. Typically for irreversible global warming. And I'd also like your opinion on whether you think there's any validity to the theory that sun spot variations is causing a fluctuation in temperature not CO2.
Yeah let me start with this last part of your question about what is the role of sunspots or solar variability in causing climate variability. If the sun is variable. There's a and we've been measuring the sun very precisely since the late 1990s. And there is a simple clear correlation between the amount of energy that the Earth is getting from the sun and this changes in the sun spot cycle. It's about one tenth the amount of energy that we receive from the Sun varies by about one tenth of one percent with that solar cycle and it may be that on Century time scales that the variations are bigger than that and the Little Ice Age when the Northern Hemisphere at least parts of it were significantly colder than they have been in the last century is probably related in at least in part to the variations of the sun's irradiance.
However we can now compare very precisely the climate foreseen due to these solar variations and the climate forcing due to carbon dioxide variations and the growth in CO2 in.
Six to eight years is enough to offset this one tenth of one percent type of variation of the sun. So it's clear that the humans now are causing a foreseen that exceeds that solar variability. The solar variability still has an effect but it's a modulation of a steady increase in the greenhouse forcing. And if you look at the temperature response it's consistent with that. So the sun is is a real forcing but it's it's it's now much smaller than the human made climate forcing.
Now tipping points is a difficult problem because it refers to a non-linear response of the system. When do you get to the point where you suddenly get collapse for example. One very important tipping point is the time when the collapse of the ice sheet either Greenland or West Antarctica and West Antarctica is the more vulnerable because it's sitting on bedrock below sea level so it can collapse and go into the ocean much quicker.
It's very hard to say when we've passed that tipping point because it is the process the most important process is the heating of the ocean as the ocean warms it's melting the ice shelves which are the tongues of ice that come out from the ice sheet into the ocean and those tongues of bias are buttressed seen the ice sheet there slowing down the ice. The streams of icebergs from the ice sheet. And what we see and the reason on my one graph which I didn't show you but it's the fact that Greenland has now started shedding nice steady nice Berg's at a rate of three hundred cubic kilometers per year is because the ice shelves on some of those ice streams have been melting ice. I think that if we restore the planet's energy balance reducing CO2 back below 350 ppm that we have a good chance of avoiding passing the tipping points we we may be able to be in this dangerous zone for a few decades before ice sheets collapse. But in order to get back to 350 ppm we have to start very soon in actually reducing our emissions or it's not practical to get back to 350 in less than a couple of centuries and I we can't remain with a planetary energy imbalance for a couple of centuries without passing those tipping points so I unfortunately I can't give you a precise answer and there are different tipping points. The other one which is irreversible. The ice sheet thing is irreversible on time scales of tens of thousands of years because that's how long it takes to build up a new ice sheet from snowfall piling up. But the other one that I worry about that's a reversible is extermination of species. We're putting more and more pressure on different species as the temperature lines move up the mountains and move the whole word.
Again it's a tipping point situation because if some species go extinct that affects other species which because of the interdependency among different species and you can cause ecosystems to collapse.
But again it's hard to put a date on when you've past tipping points but. I have said a few years ago that I think we have to get on a very different path within a decade and we've used up almost half of that decade without changing our path.
I try Hansen thank you for your time and I was just cheap and I see. Thanks in part to the alarm bell that you're sounding for our country and our nation and our world. I started a company that tries to address us at the residential level. My question for you is how if this is love the solution they are proposing it seems simple and brings benefits to consumers and the citizens up front which we know is a key policy initiative you've got to have the benefits really preceded the costs. So my question to you is is there a way we can more make that a more of a forward benefit. Bring it more forward than the cost. What can companies like ours and concerned citizens do to advance this solution. And secondly what would the critics who have been affective so far in shadow casting doubt on the science what would they say to that and how would they distort it so that we can think ahead and try and counteract those arguments as well.
I think that many businesses actually would support this because of what they have said is that they want to know what the. Policies are going to be as a function of time so they can make their investments appropriately. And the cap and trade system for example doesn't give them that confidence because it some as they've tried to such a system in Europe and the prices will collapse. They're high and it's a very volatile price signal from a cap system. But if you have if you specify a linearly or as a steadily increasing change in in this carbon price that.
Gives businesses a signal that allows them to make their investment decisions and even ExxonMobil which you normally think of as being very resistant to making changes actually said they would prefer such an approach. But as far as moving it forward.
I think that if you do want to stimulate the economy and this is actually a rapid way of doing it because you can as I mentioned it was implemented within months in British Columbia when they decided to do it.
You could just declare that you're going to move the dividend up faster because you do know the rate at which you're going to collect we do know quite accurately the rate at which we're burning fossil fuels so there'd be nothing to prevent that but I think that if you want to avoid having a bigger deficit a government deficit you just say let's make it 100 percent and I and I say that the model should be a 100 percent dividend or fight. Don't don't let the Congress loves to decide how to spend the money. But I think the public has to insist that's not that's not the most efficient way to make to spend the money let the poor the marketplace choose as to what are the technologies that are most effective in reducing emissions.
Hi I'm Geneva boy and I was wondering you talk about putting pressure on the political systems and subs so obviously we can write letters make phone calls. What would you feel the most direct way for the average person sitting here to go out and further this this sort of agenda.
Yeah I think that the key congresspeople when you have some of them here in this state need to understand what you think about this and you can do that by calling them her going to their office or the form letters I think are just not very effective. But the individuals who actually make an attempt to contact their senators and representatives can have an impact.
So that's what I would encourage you to try to do.
I want to thank you for all the great work that you've been doing for quite a while now to raise awareness. And just keeping at it it's great. My question or my thought is on your plan for imposing a fee and then the dividend. It seems like it needs to be a kind of a global agreement a multi national agreement because I could see businesses saying well it's going to raise the price of the goods we produce and then we won't be able to export anymore and it will give other countries an unfair advantage for importing so I assume that's your plan is that it needs to be it.
Yeah in fact that's the reason that I think this can work because you do have to get an agreement between United States and China. There are the two nations that are going to be competing for the 21st century. And. It's I think the only way you know. I haven't spoken with Chinese leaders but I've spoken to Chinese scientists and people working for their organizations their non-governmental organizations and they actually think that the Chinese government is ready to talk about that kind of an approach because it's in their best interest. They need to avoid fossil fuel addiction. And. Then once those two major players agree then of course Europe and Japan there's no reason they wouldn't go along with this. The countries that don't want to have a carbon fee the WTO World Trade Organization already has rules that would allow you to put a import duty on products from those countries that don't have it. The the free the carbon fee and that would be a very strong incentive for other countries to have a fee because they would rather collect the money themselves rather than have the importing countries collect the money. So it is specifically designed with that idea in mind that unless you can have an approach that's going to go global it's not going to work. That's why I killed all. Didn't work you had some countries agree to something but then the products just got made elsewhere and then shipped back to the developed countries so the total emissions actually increased.
You have to have a way to make it global.
Thank you Dr Hansen Geneva kind of asked my question I was wondering what I as an individual climate activist should do so let me expand it further. It seems like all the groups are kind of floundering now about what to do 350 is thinking for a month. Greenpeace just had a retreat and they were thinking ones guy just had a conference call and it seems like everybody is floundering What do we do now we've tried this we tried this we tried that and it seems like one thing. My husband I think is that all the climate groups really need to come together and you know do one big thing I mean one Skiles say send a valentine to your congressman and I don't think that's going to do any good. So my question to you is what should weigh do collectively.
I think that until until environmental groups recognize the fundamental truth that.
As long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy none of this stuff is going to work. And these tricks.
If cap and trade trick is it got to recognize that as being ineffectual. Once you admit that you only way to phase in renewables and efficiency and forms of energy that don't produce carbon is to make them economically competitive by raising the price and all we're doing in doing in. In so doing that is making fossil fuels pay for the damage that they cause instead of subsidizing them. Make them pay for the damage that they cause and it's it just makes from the public's perspective it just makes all kinds of sense it's only some of the you know the fossil fuel industry and others who have been very effective at preventing that kind of change. But if the public understands this and understands that it's not a climate question it's an energy question and it's an economic. Stimulus for the country which would be very beneficial and it would help the people who have been. I need to have a different word but have been cheated in the past few decades the the middle class and the people less able to afford things would benefit from this because they would be willing to pay attention to their carbon. Footprint and their energy use and actually come out ahead in this process.
My question is what's the most effective way to dispel the myth that scientists have incentive for making stuff up to scare us.
Yeah I sure wish I had a good answer to that. You know I have five sisters in the Midwest. One brother. And they tell me that now a good fraction of the people think this whole thing is a hoax. It's been very effective of propaganda that it's hard to say to what degree this is orchestrated.
Is seems to be more just a combination of all the contrarian's. Realizing that if that they can make the public very confused and skeptical about the science.
And I'm you know spend half my time now responding to Freedom of Information request they've requested every email that I've ever written and every every all my correspondence and everything they're looking for any sentence or phrase or anything they can use that will make it sound like maybe we're trying to get a certain answer from our science which is. And scientists are just not very good at defending themselves in this kind of a. Political I don't know what to call it but it's street fighting which is scientists don't know how to deal with that. All I can. Yeah but still. So we have to try to make clear the science. And. I think that most of the public still respects scientists.
It certainly has taken a hit in the last year or so and I don't know where they were it.
I think you know it seems to me that the National Academy of Sciences should step in and.
You know you do a study a investigation or study if they have to. But just make clear what the actual situation is because the public is being effectively lobbied or swift boated the scientists are being swift boated by people who either have a special interest or.
They're you know they're genuinely. There are a few a small percentage of people who just don't believe this and they're very effective in convincing the public that it's a 50/50 proposition even though the science has become in reality very clear. And I think the National Academy of Sciences could and should make that clear.
Hello Dr. Hanson. My name is Robby. I'm a sophomore at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. And my question for you is how did how did you become first involved with climatology and what brought you to where you are today.
Yeah well I was very lucky when I went to school. And. What was easier for me was math and physics. But I just happened to be at a school the University of Iowa where the physics department was headed by James Van Allen who's a famous scientist who discovered radiation belts around the earth.
And I got drawn into his program and was lucky to have him notice me and become the advisor for my thesis so I worked on planetary atmospheres heat. He pointed out new data on Venus radio. Emissions from Venus which suggested that either it's very hot or else it had a charge ion a severe. And so he suggested that I work on now for my Ph.D. thesis and I did that. And then after leaving the university of going to Nassau I proposed an experiment to go to Venus to study the clouds of Venus.
But while it took five years to build that experiment and while it was being built I was asked by a post doc actually from Harvard to help him with calculations of the greenhouse effect of nitric oxide and methane trace gases that people hadn't looked at yet.
And we realized we wrote a paper together realizing that these gases were green effective greenhouse gases and they were increasing.
So I realized that not this planet our own planet was changing before our eyes and is much more interesting and socially important then Venus. So. I resigned as the principal investigator on the Venus experiment and my a friend of mine took that over.
And ever since then I've been working on. The clip trying to understand a climate and I prefer to just do the science it wasn't until you know I testified to Congress in the 1980s and then I decided to go back to the laboratory and just work on the science because I don't particularly like public speaking and it's not my strength. But after I had grandchildren I decided down and realized that we just keep going on this path until it's clear where it's headed. And it's a path that we could get off of to our benefit but we're not doing it. So I decided five years ago to him I didn't want my grandchildren to say that OPAR understood what was happening but he didn't make it clear. So now I've started to try to make it clear that's why I wrote the book. An A.
Good evening my BIL Ackerley from Cambridge. I know you partly answer this but I just came back from Colorado and talked to a good friend of mine who works in environmental issues but. He rails against scientists. They're just in it for money. He rails against Al Gore he just wrote a book to make money. Anything who is a leet like scientists you can't trust them and to get that message. He's a Republican and Colorado as you know is the big coal producing state. So you know I don't know what he's doing but anyway it's hard. You see the public but there's a large part of this public you know who doesn't believe it. You know it's amazing. Well OK thanks for coming.
It's. Unfortunately you're right. But the heat if you look at the scientists scientific career is not a lucrative career. You know I drive I drive a 1992 Volvo because it just keeps running. You know it's got 200000 miles but it keeps going.
We have a big PR problem.
And I still think that scientists in fact the polls still show that although. The percentage of people who trust scientists has declined in the last year or so it's still quite high compared to politicians compared to compared to a number of other categories. So I think there's still hope but we do have to somehow do a better job of communicating with the public.
Dr. Hansen thank you for coming to Cambridge Dysart honor to see you speak. Following what you know your work for 20 years. I got two questions by the way if your car has over 200000 miles on it. Based on the election we had here you could run for the United States Senate.
If you get that job. But people here do.
One of my problems is the Senate.
I like your approach but under either your approach or cap and trade I don't see how we get the 60 votes because there are so many senators from. States with fossil fuel interests. We just elected a senator who says he doesn't know if he believes that climate change is manmade or not. Which is a real shame. You know Massachusetts is a leader in this subject. I don't know what the two senators from Maine will do I just don't see how we get to the 60 votes under either approach. That's why I've been telling friends to urge their senators to repeal the filibuster rule. I don't ever zennie the spine to do that. That's one question second question is. A little skeptical that just increasing the cost of fossil fuels will. Spur of the alternative energy industry quickly enough and I think the federal government still needs to put billions of dollars in and I know Senator Clinton and Senator Obama when they campaign talk about putting 15 billion a year and put that in his budget and I think he had something similar in his budget proposal under the cap and trade most of the money would have gone back to the taxpayers. Fifteen billion would have gone to renewable energy.
I want if you could answer those two questions not the first one again was how do we get to the 60 votes in the Senate OK. When I look at the states OK I don't run away I think those are two very good questions.
The the first one is I think we have to emphasize that it's not a climate matter. It's first of all the stimulating the economy and getting some money in the hands of the people who need it most. And secondly it's the fossil fuel addiction now. Even the both parties agree we have a fossil fuel addiction problem and it's causing us to have to protect supply lines around the world. It wasn't we we need to fix that. Energy problem and climate is only third on that list. So even if you don't believe the climate story. You can still address this and I and I think the business community agrees that they would like a well-defined honest approach. So I think it does have a chance if we just have proper discussions of this and people have to go back and rethink the tricks they were trying to use with Bing different senators with special favors for their state or whatever. That's not the way to do it.
Now the second one has a second part of your question.
I've got a very short memory I guess I'm 60 years old. I think my memory's going to one side or the other the other point was that I think we need to put massive amounts of money into an oh yeah oh yeah well you're absolutely right no I did not mean to imply that the carbon price does everything by itself it's just a floor.
The other things don't work without that floor without without that basic incentive. For example a building standards. The the people responsible for. The government and local governments will say you know you can have building inspectors you try to have standards but then you can't be there all the time and then once they're operating the building that's you know they don't have to if energy is cheap they don't bother to really meet the standards.
So you need that price signal in order to provide this extra push but it's not enough by itself you've got to have regulations for vehicle efficiency and building standards but also things like utilities you need to change the rules so that they make more money if they make things more efficient rather than selling more energy. So yeah there are other actions besides the price but it's the it's the fundamental requirement underneath it all I think.
Good evening Dr. Hanson I'm Laurie Leisha from Massachusetts green jobs coalition and it's great to see you again. I am always in awe of your scientific genius but I was so inspired by you sleeping out on the Boston common with the leadership campaign just a few days after your surgery your switch from being a scientist only to an activist is just so commendable. Really it's what we need and we really appreciate it. So I have a lot of scientific questions but I'm going to focus on the political ones. And I'm wondering with following the other comments that have been made in the obstacle of the 60 votes in Congress what a foul ballot initiative as an alternative. And I've got a couple of sub questions to that because you hold up British Columbia as a model when this is a global construction around this dividend and I'm wondering how British Columbia did that in isolation.
And if they did it in isolation could a city do it in isolation Cambridge maybe or a state Massachusetts maybe. And could that be carried out to other states.
And then as another part I totally see Congressman Tierney as an ally in this of I've found him to be very favorable. But I wonder who else besides Tierney Markey Kerry Capuano I would hope. Who else can we identify as really strong allies that would speak out on this. And then the final part of the question is What was Obama thinking when he advocated for awhile. Maybe you will tell me this for a new cause I think maybe you are also in favor of nuclear power and offshore drilling How does that work.
Yeah I think that there's a great potential for. A local or state or multi state initiative. You can't go too far with it because you. If only one state puts a carbon price. It does it incentivize their local industry and it will end up giving them an advantage headstart. So it makes sense.
So I think that's should be encouraged I mean Massachusetts is a state that should really think about it. Free in Dividend Approach in my opinion that was one of the reasons I came to sleep out on the on the. On the Commons was because I wanted the students to advocate such a action that I think. But you but what I found was and then we went I went with some of the students and spoke with some of the politicians and unfortunately they had actually been out in front. So a year or two earlier I had begun to push for cap and trade. Which as I have argued is a non-solution and to get them read. It reconfigured n2 an approach that actually would work is not so easy once they've taken a step down the wrong direction and that's why I said I hope Copenhagen doesn't do anything because they have started down that cap and trade route. It would be 10 years or probably 15 or more years before we realized hey this isn't working we've got to try something very different. So yeah I think you should try to push local and state and even regional multa state. But I think given this the reset in in Washington that there's actually a chance to get them to understand it there if we would just get a few key.
Congress people to begin to understand this and advocate it now. Nuclear power. The second part of your question is a one which is very touchy. In some states.
Like California and maybe with some people here and I I was never I was always very skeptical about nuclear power because it has such obvious problems.
The nuclear waste problem. The fact that it's expensive.
The fact that there's the possibility of an accident and the fact that you don't want the material to possibly be acquired by the people who would use it against the public.
But after I began to look at it as possibly the lesser of two evils. Once I realized what's happening with Cole.
If you look at Cole there are. More then more than 100000 people per year who die from air pollution air and water pollution actually is much more than that but of the fraction that we can certainly ascribe to coal is is at least that large and probably a lot larger.
And yet we continue to. If we if there were 100000 people killed by a nuclear accident we would never build another nuclear power plant again. But we continue to do it because coal is such common stuff even though it's incredibly dirty and has arsenic and mercury and we can't eat as many facia as we would like because it contaminated with mercury.
We we just ignore that problem. Well what I learned was that.
When you actually look at the safety record of the nuclear industry even with the current generation of nuclear power plants which is not ideal it does involve human factors if there's a problem you've got to turn the thing off.
But the coming generations the third generation which is the kind they want to build now are ready to be old and they're starting to do it in China and some other places. Has is much safer than the second generation because it it will automatically shut down if there is an anomaly. So the accident problem is reduced but the it is never the last. I was still skeptical about nuclear because first of all there's the amount of uranium is finite isn't it going to run out in a century or so.
Well what I learned was that the fourth generation nuclear power the fast nuclear reactors which allow the neutrons to move faster so that they can burn all of the nuclear fuel. Have some potential for solving the worst problems about nuclear energy. The present generation and even the third generation these light water reactors are burn less than 1 percent of the energy in the uranium the rest remains in a waste pile which has a half life with 10 to 100 thousand years a tremendous problem. Expensive problem to deal with that waste. But fourth generation nuclear power burns more than 99 percent of the energy in the nuclear fuel and it leaves a waste product which is much smaller in volume and has a half life of less than a century so you're talking about needing to deal with it for a couple of centuries instead of tens of thousands of years.
And it means that and those fourth generation nuclear power plant can actually burn nuclear waste. So that is a more likely solution to solving our waste problem then.
The Yucca Mountain which seems to be off the table anyhow so and I think and the unfortunate thing is that the United States had by far the best expertise in this. Field. And in 1904 Argonne National Laboratory was ready to build a demonstration fourth generation nuclear plant. But the people who are against nuclear power got so worried about this because that meant there is no nuclear fuel supply problem any longer. It can last if you including the fuel that's in the ocean which Japanese scientists are already beginning to see of out of the ocean. There's enough fuel to last for the lifetime of the earth.
So they've convinced the Clinton-Gore administration to cancel the R&D program in fourth generation nuclear power. But and that is with the idea that they just they didn't want to.
They want to eliminate nuclear power from the earth but the problem is that there are half a dozen other countries which are already working in that technology. We can't eliminate it by stopping it in the United States and it would be much smarter for us to be on top of the technology because you wanted to be as safe as possible. And it is. It is resistant to proliferation as possible and the best way is for the US to exercise leadership rather than pretending that we can eliminate nuclear from the planet. Because I just don't think we can do that. I think we're giving up the potential.
For. An energy source that has no negligible carbon footprint. And I don't see how India and China can get their e electricity without nuclear power or coal. But the only way they can eliminate coal is with nuclear power. That's the conclusion I've looked at this pretty hard over the last couple years and I. I think that we should be open minded about developing safe nuclear power. But that's I know not everybody agrees with that.
Thank you Dr. Hansen. My name is Marty Driggs let me preface this by saying that. As a climate justice activist of several years I believe with every fiber of my being that we have the capacity as a human family to solve this problem.
That being said in your opinion as a climate scientist at what point in the destabilization of our earth's life support system do we realize that our efforts have not been enough that relying on legislative efforts on appealing to power structures that exist that got us here in the first place on appealing then to solve that same problem. When do at what point and I know we don't know when that tipping point is in time but you know will it be when when the Greenland ice sheet disappears when is it that we can shout.
And many of us already are we can take a nod from the two people that are in the tree right now down in West Virginia stopping blasting on Coal River Mountain.
But when will it be time for us to realize our potential as as a human family to do this.
The great thing is there are there are a small number of people as you point out who realize what we're what we're doing what we are how we are.
Likely causing a problem for young people and future generations which when they look back at us will not do it with favor. I.
Know that the their problem is caused by the inertia in the system which causes the of effects of the early effects to be small and yet you're building up the in MBRD Bill inevitability of larger effects later. Now it seems that the public and politicians are not able to react until they actually see something. So the day the question is does that. And we are.
It may be this curve that I have for how the ice sheet loss was going like this and I was going like this and if that falls off that cliff well.
Then the science will become so overwhelming and that. The world will realize. But then it's really too late. So.
It's a. We.
My my best estimate is that we have to get on a different path within the next several years or else we are going to guarantee that we pass some of those tipping points. We may not pass though there is one of them. Their methane hydrates will begin.
That's the frozen methane which exists in two places one is on the continents and Siberia and Canada in the in the tundra as the tundra is beginning to melt it's releasing some methane.
There's also much more frozen methane in the continental shelves under the shallow ocean waters off the north coast of Canada and Siberia that dipping point is probably further away but that one we don't understand very well we see that already the tundra starting to emit some of this methane.
I think that that's one that we can. If we can avoid it if we get on a different path in the next several decades but the ice sheet one I'm afraid we're getting very close because the ocean is getting warmer and warmer and that's going to melt ice shelves and we can't suddenly cause the ocean to cool off. That that will take that in order for the ocean to begin to cool off you would have to remove this energy imbalance which is half a watt to three quarters of a watt. And that requires you to get CO2 back to 350 and you just can't do that like that. It will take decades. So we have a problem. I don't I wish I knew the answer to your question. Hello my name is Arthur Moore. I'm a sophomore from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. And I was curious.
You said you were talking about the carbon tax in British Columbia and do you think that tax would be more efficient if it all the money from it was put into creating clean energy.
You know we have we have substantial budgets already an Energy Department. And I think that in order to stimulate the economy and to. Give the people the ability to deal with the higher energy prices that we should give the the money that's collected in this. I prefer to call it a fee. Because it's not really a tax if you're giving the money back to the public. I think it should go back to the public and we would rather not have the government trying to decide which technologies are the most effective.
It's better to let the private in private enterprise once they know that carbon free is going to go up they're going to be doing all kinds of things everybody wants to be the next Exxon Mobile. They want to have the kind of energy which people will buy. So I don't see I mean there are certain things where you do have to have the government involved but we already have pretty big budgets for Department of Energy.
Also just a last question. Do you think that the tax should be increased depending on how much. Use or the substance hurts the economy. The environment for example he said was the I contribute the most amount of CO2.
Well you should have a flat fee so it depends on the amount of carbon so coal would be taxed the most because it's got more carbon and unconventional fossil fuels. But that's one reason why the fee and dividend is very important because the public once they see this dividend they're not going to object at all to raising raising the rate. I think most of the public is not. And so we've got to get that started because then people will understand it if we can just get it started.
Person in line will be the last one we can accept requesting from victim come forward quickly and we've got to have an effect. Give him some time to sleep tonight.
Hi I'm and I'm a sophomore at Cambridge in July and my question is those of us who are younger are going to be living with local time climate change as it worsens and I was wondering if there's anything in particular we can do to better the situation for our future.
I'm sorry I missed the middle part of your statement there couldn't quite understand.
We're going to be us who are younger are going to be living with global crime climate change as it worsens and. I was wondering if there was anything in particular we could do to better the future for us.
Yeah well see I think that that parents and older people it's just their nature to want to.
Do well for their children they work their fannies off to give their children a chance.
But so they're if they would understand what the implications are for young people like you then so helping them understand that is. Perhaps the most effective thing you can do it.
Each one each one teach one and then reverse the pyramid here it's the children need to teach their parents right. Good evening Dr. Hansen.
I was wondering you keep talking about like the bad effects of coal and how cold it is and evil fuel as it were. And what are your opinions on clean coal.
Do you think that that's like just a complete myth or do you think that there's any value that it's been used to allow the continued dominance of coal as energy source. And I frankly don't think there is anything such thing as clean coal but. It's very difficult to eliminate some Even if you capture if you could capture the CO2. The problem is it would that will double the price of the electricity from coal. And so the public will never allow you to change these existing dirty coal plants is just too big a cost penalty.
So they know that all they're doing is making some tests and making some test plans or something they've been doing that for more than a decade the entire Bush administration had this clean coal program at the end of the administration they canceled it because it was just a propaganda thing.
But if you put a carbon price on it will automatically make that choice. If clean coal could really work that would be able to compete with the other sources if but in fact is just going to fall by the wayside once the carbon price starts to increase.
I'm going child and I just did a semester abroad where we ran our the fans in the boats are bio diesel and I was wondering if I could be a pulse possible alternate to fossil fuel that would like that could significantly impact the amount of carbon emissions.
I think that biofuel I think there will probably figure out alternative ways to power our vehicles.
Maybe if electric will be a good part of it but biofuels may be useful for things like aircraft. They're the amount that we need is an order of magnitude less than what we need for vehicles. And I could see using having enough.
Area. For getting that magnitude of biofuels without having an impact on crops which are needed for food.
And there are possibilities for biofuels. Interesting ideas about. Algae and other ways of getting biofuel without taking a crop area at all. So and those might work out and again all those kind of things would be stimulated by a carbon price.
So I ask the question that I actually came up here before to ask which is to me as an engineer. Your scientific argument is you know it makes so much sense it's irrefutable. But I'm wondering have you tried to directly engage these people that are. Spewing incorrect information and you know trying to have you know an actual conversation with them or a debate where you. I don't know how they can really argue against in a situation where they're put on the spot. You know I don't.
Yeah well next week I'm going to North Carolina University of North Carolina and we'll talk with C after my talk with the.
The governor's. Principle person and for energy and climate.
I think. And I. I actually got a letter from John Kerry asking me to come and talk with him and I plan to do that if I'm going to call him first though to make sure he's open minded that he's not just trying to convince me to support cap and trade but I now know what's happened in the last week or so I mean I'm it's clear that he is now open minded. So yeah there's just you know the problem is are just 24 hours in a day.
But this is the time that it's it's appropriate to try to speak to these kind of key political players and to the extent that they will listen I plan to try a few of them.
My name is Ellen fierce and I'm still mess. Dr. Hansen I do want to thank you for all your work over the years. I did see you speak up in Lexington and you did have your slides with you at that time and they were great. So my first question is Is there some way we can get Dr. Hansen slides that he had prepared for tonight posted somewhere online either by the Cambridge forum or I know Dr. Hansen has his own Web site we already put them on a thumb drive which you plan to put on your website.
Yes. Check climate research TV.
And for those who don't know it Dr. Hansen has a terrific website of his own. Maybe you can give us the theory but people can subscribe and get occasional missives from Dr. Hansen which are terrific and really keep us up to date.
Yeah it's w w w dot Columbia dot edu slash.
What's the wiggle called Tilda Tilda Tilda and then my initials J E H 1 numeral 1. I think you can also just Google James Hansen and it comes right up.
Yeah I have a couple of questions though on Quest. I've been writing questions down and crossing them off as they've already asked and answered but I do have a couple that are left.
Let me see if I get one of the ones to be most important for the whole group.
I know in the past you've talked about the El Nino and El Nino effect and you didn't talk about that tonight but as I understand it we're at this point in time where there's now a shift from one to the other that may lead us into some very hot years in the near future. Can you comment on that.
Yeah we're last 2008 was the coolest year in the decade. And it was because of a strong La Nino which is the cool phase of this oscillation in the equatorial Pacific. We've now moved into a moderate not not huge not very strong but into an El Nino which is a warm phase.
And it's likely I would say greater than 50 percent chance that 2010 will be the warmest year in the instrumental record despite the fact that we're still just beginning to come out of a strong solar minimum. I mentioned in response to a different question that the Sun's brightness does change and we've been in the deepest longest solar minimum for the last three or four years which reduces the solar energy by about a tenth of a percent.
We're just going to start to come out of that this year so the next few years are yeah we had someone ask about well maybe we'll start to see some climate effects that will convince the public. But the still weather fluctuations are going to remain larger than global warming.
But you should be able in my most recent thing that I put on my website I show that the you know the weather fluctuations are large the probability of warmer than normal seasons has increased noticeably if you're willing to compare to the 1970s. And even the frequency of a daily record.
Warm temperature now exceeds by a factor of 2 to 1. Daily Record cold temperatures but that's that's it's still got to be a little stronger before people really realize that.
I think one more.
Very brief last question. Well I hope it's brief. We've been talking about cap and trade in the end the problems with it but I don't know that we talk about it in a very specific way. I do support the fee and Dividend Approach and I've had various debates with my friends some of whom are cap and trade supporters and they would say back to me that the cap in the cap and trade actually sets a cap whereas the fee and Dividend Approach does not. And they point out for example that utility companies which have captive customers will simply pay the fee and pass the cost on to their customers and therefore the amount of actual CO2 reduction that you get from the from a fee and Dividend Approach is very uncertain.
Complex depends on a lot of factors and then they would say also that.
Well let me let me just stop there then. With respect to the cap and trade I I believe it's a problem is the verification when you put put the offsets in it's really a disaster there's an article in Harper's magazine this month about that but I haven't really heard you say why you believe that the cap and trade system is doomed to failure. Is it is it because of that verification problem.
Well it's a combination of several things and it's not a real cap.
As you know the plan for the U.S. reducing 17 percent by almost all of that is offsets their actual cap would probably reducing is only a few percent.
The problem also is that it's you know it's designed. So that special interests can get in there and get it. Allowances are things and the problem is if a utility ends up saying well we're going to have a blackout then you will enjoy an increased their cap because nobody is going to allow blackouts.
But there have been economists have done studies to show what is the effect of say the Larsen bill which has like a 15 dollar per tonne CO2 and an increase in 10 or 15 dollars a year and by 2020 it reduces emissions.
U.S. emissions are a real 32 percent.
That is so it's an all practically all economists except perhaps bulk Ruben who. I've had some differences with agree that it's much more efficient and agreed get you get a bigger reduction with what they call a carbon tax but I call it a carbon fee. So. The fundamental.
The point is you need. You need to effect you need to achieve. Well. We'll leave it at that it's.
Yeah I need to write this story as a comparison of cap and trade in P in Devon down perhaps to make the story clearer because the puppets it is complex and the public does need to understand it to some degree otherwise the fossil fuel industry and the special interests will continue to torque government policies to suit their needs rather than the public's.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
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- Dr. James Hansen is the former Director for the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and now serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Studies at Columbia University. In 1988, Dr. Hansen became the first person to testify before Congress about anthropogenic, or human-induced, climate change. The December 2009 Copenhagen talks on global climate change failed to produce a new international accord, and environmental scientist James Hansen did not waste time bemoaning that failure. Rather, he looked on it as opportunity to renew and expand the discussion of climate change and look for new ideas that will lead to real solutions to this global problem. What might the road forward look like? Where should scientists turn their attention "After Copenhagen?" What should citizens be doing? In his talk, Dr. Hansen proposes a fee and divided system to reign in and eventually eliminate fossil fuel emissions and encourage the American public to invest in renewable energy. This talk is
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- Chicago: “Cambridge Forum; WGBH Forum Network; After Copenhagen: Real Solutions for Global Climate Change,” 2010-01-28, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 21, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-rj48p5vm8b.
- MLA: “Cambridge Forum; WGBH Forum Network; After Copenhagen: Real Solutions for Global Climate Change.” 2010-01-28. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 21, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-rj48p5vm8b>.
- APA: Cambridge Forum; WGBH Forum Network; After Copenhagen: Real Solutions for Global Climate Change. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-rj48p5vm8b