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Published on Sep 20, 2016
I had a conversation yesterday with James E. Hansen, the longtime NASA climate scientist who, in “retirement” at age 76, hasn’t lost a step, turning his focus to pressing a legal, political and economic case for prompt cuts in carbon dioxide emissions.
I’ve expressed concern about some of his approaches, particularly pushing alarming findings before they were published, but deeply admire his sustained engagement and heart -- and his focus on the generations who will inherit the climate we’re building now.
His preferred climate solution, along with seeking progress on new nuclear plant designs, has been to convince the United States Congress to put a rising price on the carbon dioxide content of fuels and return all of the revenue to taxpayers.
His tactics include testifying in a lawsuit filed by 21 teenagers and children against the federal government for, as Hansen put it, “not doing its job protecting the rights of young people.” Learn more about that suit at Our Children’s Trust and in a recent article by John Schwartz on that case and other citizens’ lawsuits fighting climate inaction.
In our chat, Hansen described an issue I’ve highlighted here before – the presumption in the scenarios underlying the Paris climate agreement that we’ll avoid dangerous warming by eventually deploying massive systems for burning biofuels in power plants and capturing the resulting CO2 – otherwise known as Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).
“We’re not only telling our young people that they’ve got to borrow money to go to college and put themselves in debt for half of their live, but we’re also leaving them this enormous problem, which is an avoidable problem,” he said during a break at the Louise Blouin Foundation Creative Leadership Summit in Manhattan.