Averting the worst consequences of human-induced climate change is a “great moral issue” on a par with slavery, according to the leading Nasaclimate scientist Prof Jim Hansen.
He argues that storing up expensive and destructive consequences for society in future is an “injustice of one generation to others”.
Climate change should NOT be couched in moral terms, or at least in terms this absolute. It’s fundamentally an economic and scientific question – “X amount of global warming will have Y consequences unless we spend Z to prevent it.”
While there’s certainly a moral component to the calculation in terms of our obligation to our fellow citizens of Earth and generations to come, the debate over climate change and what we should do about is much, much more complicated than a banal comparison to slavery. Slavery was nothing BUT a moral issue. Global warming is a hideously complicated political, economic, scientific, technological and yes, moral issue.
Hansen said his proposal for a global carbon tax was based on the latest analysis of CO2 levels in the atmosphere and their impact on global temperatures and weather patterns. He has co-authored a scientific paper with 17 other experts, including climate scientists, biologists and economists, which calls for an immediate 6% annual cut in CO2 emissions, and a substantial growth in global forest cover, to avoid catastrophic climate change by the end of the century.
The paper, which has passed peer review and is in the final stages of publication by the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, argues that a global levy on fossil fuels is the strongest tool for forcing energy firms and consumers to switch quickly to zero carbon and green energy sources. In larger countries, that would include nuclear power.
Denuded of the moral comparison, this is a more sensible proposition. As I’ve stated before, I don’t claim to know what global warming really means for the future of human life, what can be done about it or how much it would cost to fix, but I DO know that fear-mongering efforts to simplify the issue for the masses aren’t helping.