Scientist James Hansen Proposes “People’s Climate Stewardship Act”: A Simple Carbon Fee with Revenue Returned to Americans

04/25/2010 by James Handley

“Our grandchildren will blame us if we destroy the remarkable planet that we inherited,” warned renowned climate scientist James Hansen today at the 40th anniversary celebration of Earth Day on the National Mall in Washington, DC.  Dr. Hansen, awaiting the imminent birth of a grandchild (his 4th), is keenly aware of the threat that potential human-made climate chaos poses to her generation and all who will follow.

We live in a “false economy” of cheap fossil fuels whose prices don’t reflect their true costs to society, the environment and future generations.  “As long as coal is so cheap that low-carbon energy can’t compete, we will not make the transition to a clean-energy future,” Dr. Hansen said.

Dr. Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, spoke on this policy-related topic today as a private citizen.  He called on the public and lawmakers to reject the “smoke and mirrors” of energy bills now before Congress, which rely on “cap-and-trade” and “offsets.”  “We need a bill designed for the public, not for big banks and fossil-fuel companies,” Dr. Hansen said.

His proposal calls for a “simple, honest” carbon fee, collected from fossil-fuel companies upon the first sale at the mine, wellhead or port of entry.

The money collected via this fee would be distributed to the public as a monthly “dividend” or “green check.”  Distributing all of the revenue equitably to households will ensure that families can afford the energy they need during the transition to a clean energy future, and it should help win public support for a rising carbon fee.

Dr. Hansen’s proposal was produced after months of discussion with religious leaders, the Carbon Tax Center, Citizens Climate Lobby and the Price Carbon Campaign.  It incorporates key elements of bills proposed by Congressmen John Larson (D-Conn) and Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), whom Dr. Hansen calls on to join forces for the benefit of American people in building an effective, bipartisan “Climate Stewardship Act.”

Photo: Columbia University

Filed under Carbon Tax


  1. [...] [Update: While Chrisite & Co. were doing photo op stunts, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation hel an important hearing that focused on the science of ocean acidification] and NASA’s Jim Hanson was on the Mall in DC] [...]

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  2. Thank You for emphasizing James Hansen in your publicity and report. If not for the Center I wouldn’t have even known he was included in this rally. Had I been able to go he would have been the draw for me.

    Bless him for once again standing up for tax and dividend when the big push now is for a cap and trade bill. I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Hansen at Cornell last Monday where he was awarded the annual Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecturer. Once again he emphasized the carbon tax and the need for urgent policy action.

    I was very happy to learn he was also given the NRCCC’s annual Steward of God’s creation award.

    Though I couldn’t be at the rally I did spend a portion of the day writing a 5 star review of Storms of My Grandchildren on the website of the book company I ordered the book from.

    Comment by Jeanne Fudala — April 25, 2010 @ 11:27 pm

  3. Thank you for the wonderful piece regarding Dr. Hansen’s work. His book Storms of our Grandchildren is a seminal study of climate change should be required reading for every member of Congress.

    The carbon tax and fee dividend proposals should be in the current legislation as opposed to cap and trade which will only embellish the game on Wall Street as he clearly showed in his book.

    It is critically important at this time that these concepts be put forth, as of this writing, the Senate bill by Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham is being sent to the EPA for review. It most likely will be debated on the Senate floor in July. Now is the time for all of the concepts to be put forth and made part of the legislative process.

    I have compared Dr. Hansen’s courage to that of Galileo during his period of history indeed a brave. brilliant, moral and ethical hero.

    Thank you again for your article.

    Comment by Barry Piacenza — April 27, 2010 @ 3:57 pm

  4. I disagree with this movement wholeheartedly. This is just another hysteria created for a select number of individuals to cash in on. It sounds good on the surface, sure. The public receiving a “green check” from oil companies; then we’ll all frown when we’re taxed ruthlessly for our “carbon foot print”. Perhaps it will manifest in another level such as being charged by companies to feed plankton in the ocean. Someone is definitely going benefit, but I doubt it will be the general public or our descendants. We’ll in essence be creating another sort of utility bill. I condemn this.

    Comment by Arron Anderson — May 4, 2010 @ 4:23 pm

  5. Arron,

    We’re trying to avoid the kind of payola that you’re pointing to. That’s cap/trade/offset.
    From our proposal:

    “7. Return Revenue: All revenue from carbon fees should be returned to households equitably, in order to build broad public support and ensure that families can afford the energy they need during the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy,”

    As the price of carbon pollution rises (which yes, would increase utility bills and the price of motor fuels), individuals would get equal distributions of the revenue that increase each year. The lower your carbon footprint the more you’d benefit. Change the incentives without adding a tax burden. See Rep. Bob Inglis’ (R-SC) video explanation.

    Comment by James Handley — May 4, 2010 @ 5:22 pm

  6. [...] We must put a fee on carbon, collected from fossil fuel companies, with all proceeds distributed to the public. One hundred percent or fight! [...]

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  7. [...] Hansen has proposed a Carbon Fee which would tax carbon and return all the proceeds to citizens as monthly cheques. Hansen prefers [...]

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  8. Whilst the Environment and its ecology is connected globally the solutions are necessarily local beginning with Local action one thing that drives this point home to me is that In The United Kingdom from where I come there are already very substantial taxes on Fuel in America I believe the level of taxation is substantially lower we are to a certain extent engaged in a different debate already as policy already differs greatly.
    I know that this is only one aspect of a very broad question being posed to the world presently but would make another general point I have started to consider the Mathematics of the modern world and our belief that we are able to model and predict things to do this we have to make assumptions which are based on random outcomes all of that is another question what we can certainly say is that polluters are not discrete entities they are there to see they should be taxed and forced to price in the environmental impacts of their activities somehow these measures of putting the bill on the consumers absolves the polluters who largely create demand for things we do not need Yes Tax and Tax as a deterrent but the polluters are the global corporations and to my way of thinking it is their behaviour above anyone elses that needs to be addressed.
    Business as usual with some more taxes on the general population does not go to the root of the problem in my opinion for corporations will continue to do what they always do and create artificial demand for things we do not need, that’s my opinion anyway.

    Comment by Roger Lewis — May 15, 2011 @ 2:58 am

  9. [...] it against well established competition- fossil fuel giants. The introduction of a carbon tax is a reliable way to correct that. It’s not the final answer, but a carbon tax is the first step in what will be a long [...]

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  10. [...] have to pay for the environmental damage they’re causing. The introduction of a carbon tax is a reliable way to correct that. It’s not the final answer, but a carbon tax is the first step in what will be a long process. [...]

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  13. [...] their proposal on the left from Former Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Dr. Jim Hansen and Founder, Bill McKibben as well as on the right from Reaganomics architech Art Laffer, [...]

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  15. [...] Merrow on Twitter @SRMerrow Sources: The Wall Street Journal Mother Jones Sightline Daily Carbon Tax Center Citizens Climate Lobby Grist Share [...]

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