by Paul H. Carr

 Summary of Dr. James E. Hansen talk at New Hampshire State House, Concord, NH, 3 Apr. 2009

  “We have to figure out how to live without fossil fuels someday. Why not now, before we have destroyed the creation?” Dr. Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Space Science Institute and Professor at Columbia University, spoke as private citizen.

 Dr. Hansen showed a photo of Lake Mead which is only half full. The great rivers of the world, such as the Ganges, is fed by melting snow from glaciers, which have been receding due to global warming. These glaciers will disappear in 50 years, leaving hundreds of millions of people worldwide without fresh water.

Warmer temperatures are caused by increases in carbon dioxide levels (CO2), which could reach a point of no return. Within decades, CO2 could reach 450ppm. Above this level, Antarctic ice will be on its way to disappearing completely. The Antarctic was ice free millions of years ago when sea levels were hundreds of feet higher than now.

Coal burning is the biggest contributor to increases in carbon dioxide levels. A moratorium on building new coal plants without carbon sequestration and a phasing out of present ones will enable our earth to recover a sustainable CO2 level of 350 ppm, as per the illustration on the right, “CO2 Amount with Coal Phase-out by 2030.” The illustration on the left shows that we have already used up almost half of the the world's oil reserves.

Each year several hundred thousand people in the world die of air pollution from coal. If that many people died from a nuclear plant malfunction, “we would shut them all down.”

 To make Dr. Hansen's plan to save our plant economically viable, he urged levying a tax on carbon emissions with a 100% dividend. All the dividend money from the tax will be returned to the public, equal shares on a per capita basis. This will motivate conservation so that the money individuals receive from the dividend will exceed the added cost of energy from fossil fuels. There will be no price increase on energy from wind, solar, and nuclear.

Such a tax will give economic incentive to speed the development of our wind and solar energy resources. They are non-polluting, free, and will last as long as the sun burn out billions of years from now. Installation and maintenance will create new jobs. There is enough solar energy falling on the deserts of the Southwest to power the whole United States.

In response to a question about nuclear power, Dr. Hansen advocated research on 4th generation nuclear plants. Present ones use only one per cent of the potential nuclear energy available. The waste has to be stored for centuries. He also recommended research on the sequestering coal generated C02. Right now, there is no such thing as “clean coal.” 

 New Hampshire is presently considering spending $457 million on a scrubber to remove air pollutants from its coal-fired electric plant in Bow. If this were installed, the plant would still emit 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is 20% of NH's total. Following Dr. Hansen's plan to save our planet, we should phase out the plant. By 2012, NH will have an equivalent capacity of 711 MW available from new hydro, wind, and sustainable wood burning plants.

More information is available on Dr. Hansen's webpage http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/  . Clicking on "Tell Barack Obama the Truth--The Whole Truth" is recommended.