U.S. Scientist Urges Emmissions Tax to Cut Greenhouse Gasses

The scientist who 20 years ago first told Congress that the Earth’s climate was warming said Monday that urgent action was needed to cut greenhouse gases and proposed a tax on carbon emissions.

James Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said at a congressional briefing that a carbon tax would be the most efficient way to cut global warming emissions and encourage non-fossil energy sources.

“We have to level with the public that there has to be a price on carbon emissions,” Hansen said. “That is the only way we are going to begin to move toward a carbon free economy.”

Hansen said urgent action was needed to cut carbon dioxide emissions that are warming the globe and are already causing arctic ice to melt. He said world leaders had only one or two years to act before the Earth reaches a “tipping point” with major consequences to the global climate and species survival.

“We have reached an emergency situation,” Hansen said.

He said the government should not keep the proceeds from any carbon tax, but refund the money to taxpayers to help them pay for more fuel efficient technology.

President Bush has opposed any broad program to curb carbon emissions saying it would hurt the economy and has consistently resisted any tax increases. But global warming is an issue in this year’s presidential campaign and is expected to be a major topic of discussion at next month’s meeting of leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations in Japan.

Twenty years ago today, Hansen testified before a Senate committee and told lawmakers that “the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.”

Hansen’s testimony helped spur the first congressional efforts to curb greenhouse gases. The most recent effort, legislation that would have created a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions died in the Senate earlier this month in face of a veto threat from the White House.

(Reporting by Donna Smith; Editing by Sandra Maler)