This week, NASA climate scientist James Hansen described climate change as a “great moral issue” similar to the movement to end slavery. He linked the climate change debate with the 19th century struggle to abolish slavery from the United States with his claim that both have enormous consequences and are behind the “injustice of one generation to others.” He made the comments in the lead-up to an award he will receive next week for his contribution to science.

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Hansen argued that the lack of action on reversing climate change is handing future generations a world spiraling out of control with vast damage to ecosystems, flooded coastal regions and extreme weather. He will expand upon these comments on Tuesday, when he will receive the Edinburgh Medal. His acceptance speech will focus on his advocacy of a global tax on all carbon emissions.

Hansen first made climate change a topic of everyday discussion when he testified about the issue in front of Congress in the late 1980s. He developed one of the first global warming scientific models and is a prolific writer and researcher. Hansen’s work is frequently cited by climate change activists, including Al Gore. His climate activism has also led to several arrests for his protests against the coal industry and the Keystone pipeline.

Describing climate change as an inter-generational issue, Hansen believes that older generations did not realize their energy usage was causing problems for future generations. Now however, he said, the future will be one of climate-related disasters and species extinction because currently Americans “only pretend we don’t know” about climate science. To slow the effects of climate change, Hansen urges a flat-rate carbon tax to force cuts in fossil fuel consumption. Instead of the tax going into governments’ treasuries, however, the funds would be distributed equally among the public. The tax would then simulate the development of low-carbon energy while forcing the most wasteful energy users to curtail their consumption. Hansen’s heightened rhetoric in recent years, however, has earned him sharp criticism from former allies.

Via The New York Times

Photos via Wikipedia (Bill Ebbesen, tarsandaction)