September 6, 2010

Tell your Children

Re: “B.C. carbon-tax risk paying off,” The Journal, July 28.

Dr. James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the first scientists to draw the world’s attention to global warming, says that if the world is serious about addressing the problem, it has to reduce its atmospheric level of carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million.

We are currently at 390 ppm. Clearly, we have a tough task ahead of ourselves.

To meet the 350 target, Dr. Hansen recommends a carbon tax, or as he calls it “a fee-and-dividend,” in which “100 percent of the money collected from the fossil fuel companies at the mine or well is distributed uniformly to the public.”

Hansen recognizes that a carbon tax on its own will not get the world to 350. So in addition to a tax, he advises that we cut our coal emissions in half by 2020 and eliminate them by 2030, and leave all unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands, shale oil, and methane hydrates, “which are as dirty and polluting as coal” in the ground.

But that’s not all.

Convinced that renewable forms of energy will not meet the world’s energy requirements, once we phase out coal, Hansen asks that we reconsider nuclear, not the nuclear plants of the Three Mile or Chernobyl variety, but the fourth generation plants sometimes referred to as “fast reactors,” which are supposedly much more efficient fuel users than first, second and third generation reactors.

In any case, if we seriously want to do something about global warming, then Hansen’s plan strikes me as the best of the lot, by a long shot.

If we are not serious about global warming, then we have to understand that our indifference will turn planet Earth into another Venus, where, because of its atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, surface temperatures average about 450 degrees Celsius.

Whatever your position on global warming, be sure to state it clearly--through your words and your actions--to your children and your grand children. Future generations will want to know what you did about the problem at a time when the world understood the severity of it and had a chance to do something about it.

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