Climate Expert James Hansen Supports Cap-and-Dividend System

NYT climate reporter, and Dot Earth blogger, Andy Revkin does a great job getting to the bottom of the various cap and "X" policies currently being bandied around by a number of different scientists and legislators -- focusing mainly on NASA climate expert James Hansen's carbon tax and 100% dividend proposal (full presentation can be found on Hansen's website).In light of the Senate's recent failure to ratify the (largely imperfect) Climate Security Act (i.e. Boxer-Lieberman-Warner climate bill), it's clear that the earliest we can expect to see a bill will be in 2009 -- and even that may be a stretch. We need more influential academics like James Hansen to sound the alarm for a more robust alternative to the now conventional cap-and-trade approach.

Not only would Hansen's plan help slash emissions further than other alternatives, it would return the proceeds to taxpayers through the disbursement of regular dividend payments. Here are a few choice selections from an e-mail exchange Revkin had with Hansen (the rest of it can be found in Revkin's post):

"Carbon tax and 100% dividend" is spurred by the recent "carbon cap" discussion of Peter Barnes and others. 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," in addition, is a euphemism that may do as much harm as good. The public is not stupid.

The entire carbon tax should be returned to the public, with a monthly deposit to their bank accounts, an equal share to each person (if no bank account provided, an annual check — social security number must be provided). No bureaucracy is needed to figure this out. If the initial carbon tax averages $1,200 per person per year, $100 is deposited in each account each month. (Detail: perhaps limit to four shares per family, with child shares being half-size, i.e., no marriage penalty but do not encourage population growth.)

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 U.K. 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.

Via ::Dot Earth: Hansen on Next Climate Steps: Charge Polluters; Pay People (blog)

James Hansen
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