Saturday, January 02, 2010

Stopping Major Climate Distruption


In his new book, Storms of My Grandchildren, climate scientist James Hansen offers a pragmatic solution, perhaps our last chance, for reversing the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere and restoring equilibrium to global weather patterns. In an excerpt published in The Nation, Hansen spells out the essential tenets of his plan:

Let's define what a workable backbone and framework should look like. The essential backbone is a rising price on carbon applied at the source (the mine, wellhead, or port of entry), such that it would affect all activities that use fossil fuels, directly or indirectly.

Our goal is a global phaseout of fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions. We have shown, quantitatively, that the only practical way to achieve an acceptable carbon dioxide level is to disallow the use of coal and unconventional fossil fuels (such as tar sands and oil shale) unless the resulting carbon is captured and stored. We realize that remaining, readily available pools of oil and gas will be used during the transition to a post-fossil-fuel world. But a rising carbon price surely will make it economically senseless to go after every last drop of oil and gas--even though use of those fuels with carbon capture and storage may be technically feasible and permissible.

Global phaseout of fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions is a stringent requirement. Proposed government policies, consisting of an improved Kyoto Protocol approach with more ambitious targets, do not have a prayer of achieving that result. Our governments are deceiving us, and perhaps conveniently deceiving themselves, when they say that it is possible to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050 with such an approach.

Hansen then goes into a discussion about why cap-and-trade solutions are doomed to failure and what our best bets are for preserving the planet for our grandchildren. As arguably the foremost authority on the issue of global warming, Hansen's words carry a strong degree of credibility.