“Continuation of high fossil fuel emissions, given current knowledge of the consequences, would be an act of extraordinary witting intergenerational injustice.” -- James Hansen, et al, Abstract of “Assessing Dangerous Climate Change” Let the above statement sink in for a moment. It was written by James Hansen, widely considered the world's greatest climate scientist. He has been researching global warming since the 1970s, and has been raising the alarm since 1988, when he gave Congressional testimony. In 2013 he ended his 46-year career at NASA to put all his energy into global warming organizing. Bill McKibben said of Hansen: “He's done the most important science on the most important question there ever was.”
Recently, Dr. Hansen wrote an intriguing essay, “The Wheels of Justice,” which we would like to share with you. It is strong and actionable. The essay outlines a three-front strategy required for success in the struggle to stabilize the planet. The strategies are:
1. Through the courts. This front is less familiar to many. In his essay, he reports on a group called Our Children's Trust, which has gone to court to fight for the right of young people and future generations to have a livable planet. This group has also produced a series of short documentary films called “Stories of Trust,” several of which were shown in the 2013 One Earth Film Festival. Action Opportunities: Contribute to the legal costs of Our Children’s Trust, and use the short films to engage the community about legal challenges to government inaction.
2. Public involvement. As Hansen points out, “The courts seldom get far ahead of the public. Thus public involvement is a second essential front.” He gives examples of civil rights advances ordered by the courts only after public support became too great to ignore. In the current struggle for our right to a livable planet, Hansen highlights 350.org as the primary leader on this front. Action Opportunities: Participate in The People’s Climate March on Sept 21st in New York City. Join the Chicago chapter of 350.org and/or make a donation.
3. A gradually rising carbon fee. Finally, Hansen says, “No matter how many people participate, if young people do not demand a policy that will actually work, the effort may be largely wasted.” The workable solution Hansen supports is “ to collect a gradually rising carbon fee from fossil fuel companies and distribute 100% of the funds in equal payments to all legal residents." Hansen names the non-partisan Citizens' Climate Lobby, which works systematically to educate and engage support of legislators and the public, as the leader on this front. Action Opportunity: Join the local chapter of Citizen’s Climate Lobby that meets in Oak Park. It's free to join, and you'll meet many smart, resilient, committed neighbors who are standing with us in this fight. The next meeting is July 12th. See calendar for details.
First, all three approaches – court battles, public involvement and lobbying for a carbon fee – are needed, and buttress each other.
Second, we need a carbon tax. Schemes involving caps on emissions or alternative fuel mandates are inadequate and misleading.
While not an easy read, “The Wheels of Justice” is worth wading through and is even encouraging to know that these three strategies combined could actually generate necessary change.