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Climate scientist calls for global carbon tax

James Hansen, Nasa's pre-eminent climate scientist, has said that a global tax on carbon emissions is the only way to cut fossil fuel consumption quickly and significantly enough to prevent catastrophic weather events across the globe.

Posted : 9 April 2012

“We’re in an emergency,” he told the Guardian newspaper. “You can see what’s on the horizon over the next few decades with the effects it will have on ecosystems, sea level and species extinction.”

The pioneering 70-year-old scientist will tomorrow receive the prestigious Edinburgh Medal for his work on climate change, and will use his acceptance speech – entitled The Case For Young People and Nature – to reiterate that action must be taken now in order to safeguard future generations.

Dealing with climate change is an issue akin to slavery, he says: an “injustice of one generation to others”.

“Our parents didn’t know that they were causing a problem for future generations but we can only pretend we don’t know because the science is now crystal clear.”

“We understand the carbon cycle: the CO2 we put in the air will stay in surface reservoirs and won’t go back into the solid earth for millennia. What the Earth’s history tells us is that there’s a limit on how much we can put in the air without guaranteeing disastrous consequences for future generations. We cannot pretend that we did not know.”

His proposed carbon tax would see the income paid back to the public rather than government, with the higher cost of fuel driving companies and consumers into adopting greener technologies.

He described as “completely ineffectual” current mechanisms to reduce emissions.

“We can’t simply say that there’s a climate problem and leave it to the politicians,” he said. “They’re so clearly under the influence of the fossil fuel industry that they’re coming up with cockamamie solutions which aren’t solutions. That is the bottom line.”

Read the full Guardian interview

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