Fossil fuels must be taxed out of existence to ensure that future generations are not saddled with a world of rising seas and extreme weather—and all the costs that come with them—according to a new research paper by renowned climate scientist and Columbia University professor James Hansen.
“The science has become crystal clear,” Hansen said Tuesday during a press conference to discuss the report, Young People’s Burden (pdf), co-written with 11 other top scientists and published in Earth Systems Dynamics Discussion. “We have to phase out carbon emissions over the next few decades.”
The research paper warns that “The assumption that young [people] will somehow figure out a way to undo the deeds of their forebears has crept into and spread like a cancer through United Nations climate scenarios.”
As it becomes increasingly difficult to keep global temperature rise below the agreed-upon climate threshold of 1.5°C, the report states that future generations may be forced to use “negative emissions” measures to forcibly extract CO2 from the atmosphere. Those range from simply “improved agriculture and forestry practices” to carbon capture and storage (CCS), a more controversial technique that could cost from $104-570 trillion.
“It is a very dubious idea and the cost of it is not negligible,” Hansen said.
One of the most important measures that can be implemented now is a steadily increasing tax on carbon and an end to government subsidies for the dirty energy industry, Hansen said Tuesday.
“There’s a misconception that we’ve begun to address the climate problem.”
“Make the price of fossil fuels honest,” he said. “Stop subsidizing them. And make them pay their cost to society.”
“If we put a gradually rising fee on carbon emissions, it will spur the business community and entrepreneurs and the public to develop carbon-free energies and energy efficiency, and it will spur the public to change their choices so that we move rapidly to reducing emissions and move to clean energy,” he said.
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