The nation's top climatologist and NASA's former chief climate scientist is pushing the administration to tax carbon emissions about $600 billion a year, a "fee" that would boost gas prices by about $1 a gallon immediately.
And according to James Hansen's plan, the fee of $10 per ton of carbon dioxide that will result in $600 billion collected would jump another $10 every year for 10 years, raising the final fee to $100 per ton, raising trillions of dollars over time and possibly raising the gas tax with it.
"It would be a fee for carbon dioxide emissions proportional to the amount of carbon in the fossil fuel. A suggested starting amount is $10 per ton of carbon dioxide for the first year, and this would go up $10 a ton per year, so at the end of 10 years it would be $100 a ton. That would add a cost to fossil fuels: for gasoline, equivalent to about $1 a gallon," he said.
But, said the recently retired NASA executive, the public would see a potential payoff in more than just cleaner air. He proposes that "legal residents" share in the windfall.
In an interview with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and provided to Secrets, he said that his proposed tax on today's fossil fuel production would generate about $2,000 per person. "That would allow most people to cover their increased energy costs, and it would be a strong incentive for people to minimize their carbon footprint. it would also be a huge incentive to entrepreneurs to develop clean energy and energy efficiency," he added of his plan first suggested in 2009.
Hansen even suggested an easy way to distribute the money. "You just divide this by the number of legal residents and distribute it electronically to their bank accounts or debit cards," he said.
Without a major change in carbon emissions, he added, global warming will result in disastrous sea level increases and temperature zone changes.
"If we don't begin to reduce emissions pretty promptly, we're probably going to guarantee sea level rise of several meters," he told the journal. "It's hard to say exactly how fast that will be, and that's what scientists argue about. The other irreversible effect is the danger that shifting climate zones will drive a substantial fraction of species to extinction."
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com.