Preeminent Climate Scientist Blasts Cap & Trade

Dr. James Hansen was awarded the prestigious Stephen H. Schneider climate award at the Commonwealth Club in S.F. on Dec. 4 and chose to trash CA's landmark cap-and-trade program, preferring a 'simple, clean carbon tax'. Gov. Brown was attending.
December 8, 2012, 11am PST | Irvin Dawid
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Science reporter David R. Baker, who has written about the outcome of the landmark Nov. 14 cabon permit auction by the CA Air Resources Board and the proposed 'climate dividend' for rate payers, reported on the sold-out Commonwealth Club meeting.

"Hansen, who leads NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was there to receive the Commonwealth Club's annual Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communications. The award, named after a Stanford University professor who died in 2010, goes to scientists who make significant contributions to the public discussion of climate change. Hansen, who has been pilloried by climate-change doubters, certainly fits that bill.

Arguably the best-known climate scientist in America, Hansen trashed cap and trade during a talk Tuesday night at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. The system, in which companies buy and sell permits to produce greenhouse gases, is a "half-baked" and "half-assed" way to deal with global warming, Hansen said."

Hansen opposes cap & trade because he feels it will "enrich the trading desks of banks, which have a new market to explore".

Indeed, Baker noted in his Nov. 19 article on the results on the Nov. 14 auction that "some of the allowances went to traders with financial outfits such as EDF Trading and Morgan Stanley Capital Group. They are expected to be active participants in the "secondary market" for allowances, buying and selling with other traders as well as with companies covered by California's emissions cap."

Hansen believes that a "simpler system would be a carbon tax. Hansen argued for taxing carbon pollution and returning the money to taxpayers, an approach often called "tax-and-dividend."

"You don't want a system with caps, where you have trading, you have derivatives, you have markets that then collapse and don't actually reduce emissions much. That's been tried in Europe, and it didn't do much."

"To Hansen, the most important thing is putting a firm, high price on carbon. Do that, and the private sector will quickly find ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions, he said."

And what did Gov. Brown have to say about this outspoken critic of this "key element of state climate plan"?

"We are out there in the forefront," Brown told the crowd. "As you've just heard, the forefront isn't good enough. But it's still pretty damn good."

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Published on Thursday, December 6, 2012 in San Francisco Chronicle
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