Wednesday, August 8, 2007

James Hansen -- Declaration of Stewardship

As you all know, the Bush Administration tried hard to keep NASA climate scientist James Hansen from speaking out publically about climate change. Fortunately they didn't succeed, and he's still speaking. Last week Hansen gave a speech in Des Moines Iowa, outlining what he calls a Declaration of Stewardship that any candidate serious about preserving our environment ought to endorse.

The speech (it's only three pages) is well worth a read, and I think it would be great if his proposed Declaration could somehow get enough attention that candidates actually started talking about it. It's surely depressing to contemplate the vast array of special interests bent on doing nothing -- see, for example, this rare expose in Newsweek of The Deniers' powerful disinformation campaigns -- but Hansen still has some optimism:

The public must also lead in the solution of the global warming problem. Special interests may have wounded our democracy, but it is still alive and well enough. The founders of our democracy established a remarkable system giving a vote to the commonest of men equal to that of the richest and most powerful citizen. We all have the right to vote, and we should use that right wisely.

Most candidates are likely to give lip service to the objective of avoiding dangerous human-made climate change. We need a way to smoke out who's serious, who will give priority to preserving creation for today’s and future generations, and who, on the contrary, is subservient to special interests.

The Declaration, as Hansen describes it, has three points:

Declaration 1: Moratorium on Dirty Coal: I will support a moratorium on construction of coal-fired power plants that do not capture and store CO2.

In explanation of this first declaration, I note that it is, by far, the most important thing that must be done to stop global warming. There is more CO2 in coal than in all of the oil and gas in the ground. If we phase out coal use except where we capture the CO2, the problem will be more than half licked. To qualify as “clean coal”, most of the CO2 must be captured.

Declaration 2: A Price on Carbon Emissions. I will support a gradually rising price on carbon emissions, reflecting costs to the environment, with mechanisms to adjust the price that are economically sound. A first step will be to eliminate subsidies of fossil fuels.

In explanation, the carbon price provides an effective way to support energy efficiency, conservation, renewable energy, nuclear power, and other low carbon energies, allowing these to compete against each other and permitting local choices. I note that the price on emissions does not need to be large, but business must recognize that it will be rising. This will unleash innovation. ...

Declaration 3: Increased energy efficiency and no-carbon energy sources. I will support effective actions to increase energy efficiency and conservation, remove barriers to efficiency, and increase use of low-carbon and no-carbon energy sources.

In explanation, there is great potential in energy efficiency, enough to satisfy near-term energy needs despite the moratorium on dirty coal, but barriers to efficiency must be removed. ... Actions under Declaration 3, in the absence of a moratorium on dirty-coal power-plants and a carbon price, cannot solve the climate problem and cannot save Creation. By themselves, increased efficiency and increased use of renewable or no-carbon energy lower the price of fossil fuels, assuring that the fossil fuels will be mined and used. The fact is that there are enough fossil fuels to destroy Creation unless a price is attached to carbon emissions.

Please forward to your favorite (or least favorite) candidate...

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