Under this proposal, the carbon levy would increase year-on-year, with the tax income paid directly back to the public as a dividend, shared equally, rather than put into government coffers. Because the tax would greatly increase the cost of fossil fuel energy, consumers relying on green or low carbon sources of power would benefit the most as this dividend would come on top of cheaper fuel bills. It would promote a dramatic increase in the investment and development of low-carbon energy sources and technologies.
The very rich and most profligate energy users, people with several homes, or private jets and fuel-hungry cars, would also be forced into dramatically changing their energy use. In the new paper, Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and his colleagues warn that failing to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 6 percent now will mean that by 2022, the annual cuts would need to reach a more drastic level of 15 percent a year.
Had similar action been taken in 2005, when the Kyoto Protocol on climate change came into force, the carbon dioxide emission reductions would have been at a more manageable 3 percent a year. The target was to return carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, down from its current level of 392ppm. The paper, The scientific case for avoiding dangerous climate change to protect young people and nature, also argues that the challenge is growing because of the accelerating rush to find new, harder-to-reach sources of oil, gas and coal in the deep ocean, the Arctic and from shale gas reserves.
Hansen said current attempts to limit carbon emissions, particularly the EU’s emissions trading mechanism introduced under the Kyoto Protocol which restricts how much carbon dioxide an industry can emit before it has to pay a fee for higher emissions, were “completely ineffectual.” Under the global carbon tax proposal, the mechanisms for controlling fossil fuel use would be taken out of the hands of individual states influenced by energy companies, and politicians anxious about winning elections.
“It can’t be fixed by individual specific changes; it has to be an across-the-board rising fee on carbon emissions,” Hansen said. “We can’t simply say that there’s a climate problem, and leave it to the politicians. 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.”