Obama's Second Chance on the Predominant Moral Issue of This Century. Commentary by James Hansen, HuffPost, April 5, 2010. "President Obama, finally, took a get-involved get-tough approach to negotiations on health care legislation and the arms control treaty with Russia -- with success. Could this be the turn-around for what might still be a great presidency? The predominant moral issue of the 21st century, almost surely, will be climate change... Our fossil fuel addiction, if unabated, threatens our children and grandchildren, and most species on the planet...

The fundamental requirement for solving our fossil fuel addiction and moving to a clean energy future is a rising price on carbon emissions. Otherwise, if we refuse to make fossil fuels pay for their damage to human health, the environment, and our children's future, fossil fuels will remain the cheapest energy and we will squeeze every drop from tar sands, oil shale, pristine lands, and offshore areas. An essential corollary to the rising carbon price is 100% redistribution of collected fees to the public -- otherwise the public will never allow the fee to be high enough to affect lifestyles and energy choices. The fee must be collected from fossil fuel companies across-the-board at the mine, wellhead, or port of entry. Revenues should be divided equally among all legal adult residents, with half-shares for children up to two per family, distributed monthly as a 'green check'. Part of the revenue could be used to reduce taxes, provided the tax reduction is transparent and verifiable. The rising carbon price will affect almost everything. Congressman John Larson defined an appropriate rising fee. $15 per ton of carbon dioxide the first year and $10 more per ton each year. Economic modeling shows that carbon emissions would decline 30% by 2020. The annual dividend then would be $2000-3000 per legal adult resident, $6000-9000 per family with two or more children. About 60% of the public would receive more in the green check than they pay in added energy costs. People will set their net cost or gain via their energy and other consumer choices...

"The National Religious Coalition on Creation Care (NRCCC) is working with the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), the Price Carbon Campaign (PCC), and economists at the Carbon Tax Center (CTC) to help promote this honest and effective energy and climate policy. The public, if well-informed, can be expected to support this policy. But so far Congress has been steamrolled by special interests... Can the cacophony of special interests be overcome? There is one way: the president must get involved. He must explain the situation to the public and use his bully pulpit to persuade Congress to do what is right for the nation and future generations. He must explain that a rising carbon price is needed to phase out our fossil fuel addiction. The dividend will provide the public the means to move to a clean energy future, stimulating the economy... Perhaps posterity may remember that Obama reduced the number of nuclear-tipped missiles, or that he added 10% of Americans to the health care rolls. But if he dreams of being a great president, he needs to take on the great moral challenge of our century." Dr. James Hansen is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, but he writes on this policy-related topic as a private citizen.

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