This is one of half-a-dozen pages compiling expressions of support for carbon taxes (or more targeted taxes, e.g., on gasoline) by notable individuals and organizations. To access other pages with different supporter categories, click on the Progress link on the navigation bar and move to the desired category.
Dr. James Hansen, Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the nation’s and perhaps the world’s pre-eminent climate scientist, has been a forceful advocate of a U.S. revenue-neutral carbon tax since at least 2006. Here we present a selection of his writing in chronological order (oldest to newest).
An effective fossil energy policy should include a tax on carbon emissions… Fuel taxes should encourage conservation, but with rebates to taxpayers so that the government revenue from the tax does not increase. The taxpayer can use his rebate to fill his gas-guzzler if he likes, but most people will eventually reduce their use of fuel in order to save money, and will spend the rebate on something else. With slow and continual increases of fuel cost, energy consumption will decline. The economy will not be harmed. Indeed, it will be improved. (New York Review of Books, July 13, 2006, The Threat to the Planet)
In 2008, Dr. Hansen further articulated his proposal for a gradually-rising carbon tax with revenue returned through equal and recurring “dividends”:
A price on emissions that cause harm is essential. Yes, a carbon tax. Carbon tax with 100 percent dividend is needed to wean us off fossil fuel addiction. Tax and dividend allows the marketplace, not politicians, to make investment decisions… Carbon tax on coal, oil and gas is simple, applied at the first point of sale or port of entry. (Full text of June 23, 2008 speech here.)
On the eve of the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, Dr. Hansen’s NY Times op-ed, “Cap and Fade” forcefully critiqued proposals for cap-and-trade with offsets, arguing instead for an upstream carbon “fee” with all revenue returned directly to taxpayers via monthly “dividends.” Continuing this theme, in April 2010, Dr. Hansen called on President Obama to seize moral leadership on the climate issue with a “carbon fee and green check.” Hansen acknowledged Sen. Cantwell’s CLEAR (“cap-and-dividend”) bill which would return 75% of revenue as well-intentioned but ineffective due to its reliance on a cap and its “low carbon price.” (Huffington Post).
In late 2009, Dr. Hansen published Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and the Last Chance to Save Humanity, a book weaving climate science, politics and personal experience into a heartfelt and compelling narrative. Auden Schendler reviewed “Storms” in Grist:
The science is fascinating, especially when presented in the context of a 30-year effort to make our government understand the dire need for aggressive action. But in the end, Hansen’s book is about something else. It’s about how one should live a life; the book is as much about Hansen’s answer to this philosophical question as it is about climate change.
In Sept 2021, Hansen co-authored an op-ed in the Boston Globe, A carbon tax is key to addressing the climate crisis — and carbon dividends could get Congress to support one. The sub-head conveys the scientist-advocate’s longtime message in a refereshing new guise: Providing carbon dividends to every resident transforms the cod liver oil of a new tax into a milkshake that most Americans would happily consume for years to come.
Dr. Hansen and co-author James Marshall, former San Francisco Chronicle economics editor and cofounder of Citizens Climate Lobby’s Economics Policy Network, write:
President Biden’s ambitious goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2030 cannot be achieved by piecemeal subsidies to promote cleaner energy — electric cars and the like ― as long as dirty fossil fuels enjoy subsidies estimated by the International Monetary Fund at more than $600 billion annually. The vast bulk of those subsidies represent the unpriced cost to humans of burning fossil fuels: climate disruption and the health effects of air pollution. Any serious climate program must eliminate them without causing economic havoc.
[Note that the $600 billion figure is the IMF’s estimate of U.S. subsidies alone — their worldwide figure is $5.2 trillion — and the largest amounts by far are not government giveaways to fossil fuel companies but unpriced externalities. In the IMF’s words, “The vast bulk of those subsidies represent the unpriced cost to humans of burning fossil fuels: climate disruption and the health effects of air pollution. Any serious climate program must eliminate them without causing economic havoc.”]
Continuing with the Hansen-Marshall Globe op-ed:
Fortunately, several such programs are immediately at hand. Three pending climate bills would achieve Biden’s bold climate targets, satisfy budget reconciliation criteria, and meet the all-important political criterion of achieving public support.
The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 2307), America’s Clean Future Fund Act (S. 685), and the Save Our Future Act (S.2085), all share two key provisions: a predictably rising fee on polluting fossil fuels and a partial or full return of revenue to every American.
Their first feature is the most familiar. An unprecedented 3,623 US economists from across the political spectrum, including 28 Nobel laureates, have declared that “a carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary.”
The second feature of these bills, known as the “dividend,” is the key to helping members of Congress protect their constituents’ physical and economic well-being without being branded “pro-tax” by opponents.
As Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has argued, “the most politically viable way” to build support for a tax on carbon polluters is by earmarking the revenues to make most American voters better off right away — even before its climate benefits start to show. Providing “carbon dividends” to every resident transforms the cod liver oil of a new tax into a milkshake that most Americans would happily consume for years to come.
Analyses by the US Treasury, Columbia University, and other research centers agree that returning carbon tax revenues in the form of equal dividends to every individual provides net financial benefits to roughly two-thirds of Americans, while still motivating them to reduce their carbon footprint. These benefits supplement the huge but less immediately tangible benefits from mitigating climate disruption and deadly air pollution.
Disclosure: Dr. Hansen has appeared at two Congressional briefings (2008 and 2009) and a fundraising house party (2010) organized by the Carbon Tax Center and our allied organization, the Price Carbon Campaign, and at our Wesleyan “Pricing Carbon” Conference (2010).
Stephen Chu, director, Univ. of California Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory: “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” (Times Tough for Energy Overhaul, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 12, 2008. The Journal noted that “Mr. Chu has called for gradually ramping up gasoline taxes over 15 years to coax consumers into buying more-efficient cars and living in neighborhoods closer to work.”) Dr. Chu said this upon his designation as President Obama’s Energy Secretary. Since assuming that post, Secretary Chu has backpedaled from his support of energy taxes, at least in public.
William Moomaw, Professor of International Environmental Policy and Director of the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, Tufts University:
As a first step, we should dismantle the web of policies that overwhelmingly favors fossil-fuel production and use and actively discriminates against new technologies and practices that would reduce harmful emissions… The second step is to institute federal, state, and local policies that reverse the disincentives created by the existing policy structure and force users to pay the costs of extracting, transporting, and burning fossil fuels. The most straightforward and effective policy changes would include a carbon tax.
(Article co-authored with Judy Mayzer in Jan/Feb 2007 “Can We Stop Global Warming?” issue of Boston Review; Moomaw, holder of a PhD in Physical Chemistry from M.I.T., has been a lead author on four major IPCC reports.)
Steven Running, University of Montana Professor of Ecology: “The first thing we need to do – and it’s highly unpopular – we really need to put a carbon tax that represents the impact carbon emissions have on the world. We need to have five-dollar-a-gallon gas. I’m probably going to be hung in Helena for saying that, but it’s true.” Remarks at an Audubon Society seminar, “Climate Change: What the Future May Hold for Montana’s Plant and Animal Communities,” in Helena, MT, Feb. 27, 2006 (reported by the Helena Independent Record).
David Suzuki, Canadian geneticist, broadcaster and environmentalist has strongly endorsed British Columbia’s revenue-neutral carbon tax and supported a similar nationwide carbon tax for Canada.