Climate Whistleblower James Hansen Sides with Republicans on Carbon Plan

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — As hundreds of thousands marched last weekend, waving signs and urging their government representatives not to turn their backs on the urgent question of climate change, it felt to many that they were little more than waves bashing against unhearing, unfeeling rocky cliffs. Yet, the president and his cabinet cronies do not represent the entire Federal government, where many, even in his own party do not share his stance of willful oblivion. Indeed, unlike the president’s ill-informed followers, the majority of Americans are very concerned about the changing climate.

Given the divisive nature of our political landscape, the only hope for action seems to be in the form of a bi-partisan solution. The problem with Al Gore’s approach, said Carlos Curbelo,  a Republican Congressman from the low-lying Florida Keys was that Gore, “did all that without a Republican partner, so we got to a state of affairs where Republicans automatically oppose anything to do with the environment... there’s a lesson there. We need a proper, sober discussion on this issue.”

Curbelo is the co-chair of the House Climate Solutions Caucus, a group of 19 Democratic and 19 Republican lawmakers committed to looking for a solution that both parties can live with. Ted Deutsch, the Democratic co-chair, says, “If you want to join as a Democrat, you have to bring a Republican. It’s a Noah’s Ark approach, which is appropriate.”

One solution that the group may well get behind is the so-called carbon fee and dividend approach. This proposal has been backed by the environmentally- leaning Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), but it also has some powerful support on the right as well. For starters, James Baker, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, along with George W. Shultz and Henry Paulson—all former Republican cabinet members—support it.

The fee and dividend approach differs from the straight carbon tax being proposed by others, in that the funds received by a tax on fossil fuels, will be re-distributed to tax-payers in the form of monthly dividends. That means that even though you would likely end up paying more at the gas pump, you would get that back every month in the form of a dividend.

According to CCL, “In just 20 years, studies show, such a system could reduce carbon emissions to 50% of 1990 levels while adding 2.8 million jobs to the American economy.”

According to the plan, the funds would be distributed in equal payments to all American families. That means that those using energy most efficiently will likely get back more than they spent, while those driving gas-guzzlers or driving more miles than average would get back a little less. This provides a built-in incentive for people to make more efficient choices, something that is missing is today’s fracking-enabled era of super-low gas prices.

In Baker’s version, the fee would begin at $40/ton of carbon dioxide, raising somewhere between $200-300 billion per year, and providing a dividend of around $2,000 per family.

It’s not at all clear whether the Trump team will embrace the plan. Baker and his team met with Trump in February and we’ve heard nothing about it so far. One can’t help but wonder if it will take a flood at Mar-a-Lago to awaken the president to ‘real reality.’

It’s not just free market hawks that are pushing this, however. James Hansen, the now-legendary early climate whistleblower at NASA, has come out in support of it as well. His version starts at $55/ton, which would then provide dividends of up to $3000 per family. Given that gasoline contains about 20 pounds of CO2 per gallon, each dollar per ton of CO2 would add around a penny per gallon of gas.

Hansen was in Rochester, NY last week, where he told reporters, that this plan was “only way that you can move from fossil fuel-based energy to clean carbon-free energy." He claims that people will reject a carbon tax that gives the money to government programs. Hansen also announced plans for a new paper and a book, both about climate change, as well as a forthcoming visit with Pope Francis.