Dempsey Lecture features climatologist James E. Hansen

By squeezing oil from tar sands, drilling in the Arctic and hydrofracking to extract natural gas, mankind is actively contributing to global warming. Only by increasing the cost of fossil fuels — and thereby limiting their appeal — will people have a chance of protecting their future, says climatologist James Hansen.  

“This is a moral issue,” Hansen says. “Today’s adults cannot say they do not know the consequences of allowing continued fossil fuel addiction; they can only pretend they don’t.”

Hansen is the featured speaker at the March 20 Dempsey Lecture in Rogers Music Center at Willamette University. The free presentation, “The Case for Young People and Nature: A Path to a Healthy, Prosperous Future,” will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Hudson Hall.

Hansen, an adjunct professor of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University, says mankind is entering a planetary crisis, but governments are turning a blind eye to the problem. The solution, he adds, lies in imposing a rising fee on carbon collected from fossil fuel companies — namely at domestic mines and ports of entry.

The funds would be distributed to the public on a per capita basis. People whose carbon footprints are smaller than average would receive more in their monthly dividend than they’d pay in increased energy prices.

“As the fee rises, people will need to move toward cleaner energy sources or energy efficiency if they want to stay on the positive side of the ledger,” Hansen says. “The effect would stimulate our economy, modernize our energy systems and give us a competitive advantage internationally.”

By attending his lecture, Hansen says people will learn more about the science used to measure climate change and the solutions that must be implemented for the sake of future generations.

“Individuals cannot solve the problem themselves,” Hansen says. “Real solution will require people to begin affecting government policies.”

The presentation is co-sponsored by the Dempsey Foundation and Willamette’s Center for Sustainable Communities. The Willamette Store will offer Hanson’s work, which the author will sign following the presentation.


Tickets are no longer available.