After Congress shelved the climate bill late last week, the conventional wisdom of green-minded opinionators was that future generations were doomed. A glum, dejected note sounded everywhere from Grist to the New York Times. This despairing attitude took on a ghoulish form when one environmentalist and prolific (but anonymous) blog commenter hoped in this thread that opponents of climate legislation had grandchildren, so these innocent progeny could suffer when "humanity rots." There is, however, an alternative perspective offered by one very prominent climate scientist who is a hero among climate activists. I had a feeling that James Hansen, author of Storms of my Grandchildren, might have a different take on the latest political development, so I emailed him last night. Here is his response:
The climate bill collapse is a great opportunity. Environmentalists who thought they could somehow outmuscle the fossil fuel industry in backroom deals with politicians should reassess their position. It is as sure as the law of gravity: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy they will reign supreme. The only solution is a rising price on carbon (a "cap" is not a price), collected from the fossil fuel companies, with the proceeds distributed to the public (not given by Congress to their favorite charity: fossil fuels, solar panels, etc.). This is needed for stimulating the economy, reinvigorating American innovation, creating jobs, and solving our fossil fuel addiction. It (fee-and-dividend or fee-and-green-check) is the only suggestion that solves the fossil fuel/climate problems. Proposed legislation, including CLEAR, lock in fossil fuel dependence for as far as we can see into the future.
Hansen's view that the climate bill was already fatally compromised is echoed by other environmental activists in this article in The Hill. True, Hansen is a vocal opponent of cap & trade, so perhaps it's not much of a surprise that he sees a huge silver lining in the congressional "climate bill collapse."And those voices quoted in The Hill article represent a minority within the climate activist community. Still, it'll be interesting to see if any mainstream advocates--many who seem to think that the U.S. Congress has now put the planet on an unalterable path to climate catastrophe-- will chuck their defeatist mentality and embrace Hansen's view.