Seeing is believing. Seeing Hurricane Florence dump 30 inches of rain on the Carolinas just a year after Hurricane Harvey dumped 60 inches on Texas and Hurricane Maria lead to the death of 3,000 Americans in Puerto Rico, and just two years after setting the warmest global temperatures on record for three straight years (2016, 2015 and 2014). Seeing these things is helping many people call for stronger action on climate change. The world’s scientific community agrees that the globe is warming because of human activity. While we may have accidentally pushed the climate toward instability, humanity has to intentionally stop burning fossil fuels. But how, especially in today’s broken politic
Bipartisanship is Possible!
Well I have some surprising news; not all of Washington is broken. The bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the US House of Representatives began meeting in 2014 with eight members, and now stands at 86 members – 43 Republicans and 43 Democrats – all working together to debate climate solutions, not science. Two of the most recent members are Democrat John Yarmuth and Republican Brett Guthrie of Kentucky. Ohio has two Caucus members, Democrat Marcy Kaptur and Republican David Joyce. Despite the momentum of removing the politics around climate change, the Trump Administration still decided to pull the US out of the international Paris Agreement last year. Has the Caucus truly made any progress?
An idea that has been gaining traction among conservatives, as well as an impressive group of industry leaders and economists, is the establishment of Carbon Dividends. What is a Carbon Dividend you ask? The government would place a steadily rising fee would be placed on companies that pull fossil fuels out of the ground with the intent to burn – coal, oil and natural gas – on a per ton basis. Instead of a traditional “tax”, all of the revenue would go back to households around the country in the form of a monthly or quarterly dividend, much like a refund many people receive from the IRS already. These dividends would be equitable, helping people cover the rising costs of fossil energy. Two thirds of households would get more back in their dividend than cost increases. Energy companies would invest in services that are not subject to the rising fees – clean, renewable energy – and customers will make the switch. So, in short, Exxon could end up paying for solar panels on your roof, if you’d like.
Our region has many conservative politicians and until now most policies that address greenhouse gas emissions have relied on the heavy hand of government. Conservatives like Carbon Dividends because they use the power of the economy to reward clean energy investment and choices that are made by consumers, not the government. An independent study of this plan showed it would create 2.1 million jobs over 10 years, grow the economy and save over 200,000 lives from improved air quality. This study also found that Carbon Dividends actually would meet the emissions goals of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan nine years earlier, effectively meaning EPA regulations on carbon could even be eliminated.
A Fantastic and Fast Solution
Leading climatologist Dr. James Hansen has been a major advocate of Carbon Fee & Dividend for almost 10 years. He is the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute, and his climate research inspired the creation of 350.org and the nonpartisan Citizens’ Climate Lobby, two of the world’s leading grassroots climate organizations. Hansen believes that putting a price on carbon is necessary because investment in renewable energy alone is not enough. “We have to make fossil fuel prices honest”, he says. He argues that fossil energy is artificially low because it’s prices do not factor in the climate damages that they create – stronger and more frequent hurricanes, rising sea levels, wild fires, etc. Without a steadily rising fee, dirty energy that is currently used will not be replaced fast enough, even as new energy investment will be carbon-free.
Climate change is here, but so is a fantastic and fast solution. One of the only remaining challenges is spreading the word and building the political will to get it passed in Congress. This is where civic-minded people can help. Members of Congress need to hear from us that we expect them to act on climate. If you like Carbon Dividends as a policy, or would like your representative to join the Climate Solutions Caucus, give them a call! If you’d like to learn more and perhaps get involved, you can visit citizensclimatelobby.org or come to one of our monthly meetings at two local chapters, in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Let’s help climate action grow!
Chris Heckman, Over-the-Rhine
Founding member, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Cincinnati Chapter
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