March 14, 2017

A Hopeful Climate Change Story? What? Impossible!

I recently went to a meeting of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby in Pasadena, California.

The jam-packed room was full of scientists from Cal Tech, NASA, and the usual suspects—progressive Unitarians, Episcopalians, Jews, and Buddhists were there. No question there were agnostics, atheists, ardent millennials, and many others in the room.

No doubt, some practiced mindfulness. Unlike climate change groups I’ve been to in the past, these people were a happy, cheerful lot; they have no use for “the world is coming to an end” approach to climate change.

If one wanted to divide the world into “winners” and “losers,” these people were winners. They actually had a solution to carbon pollution that would work, is simple, conservative, free market, and involves limited government.

There may have not been a political conservative in the room at the Unitarian Neighborhood Church in Pasadena, but these people lived in the real world—the one where Donald Trump denies a human component in climate change as do three-fourths of his followers.

The plan Citizens’ Climate Lobby espouses is called, “Carbon Fee and Dividend.” Legislation would put a fee on the amount of carbon dioxide in fossil fuels. This fee is assessed at the source of the fuel: at the mine, well, or port of entry. The fee starts out low and increases annually in a predictable manner until we reach a safe level of emissions.

One hundred percent of the fees minus administrative costs go back to American households each month. This feature will inject billions into the economy. This plan will reduce CO2 emissions by 54 percent below 1990 levels.

But will such an elegant, simple plan pass the Congress and be signed by the president? One would think so, since 97 percent of climate scientists predict a disastrous world for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren if we do nothing about carbon pollution. For educated Americans, denying climate change ought to be akin to being members of The Flat Earth Society.

Also, the plan might pass Congress because veteran Republican officials have formed a Climate Leadership Council—which includes James A. Baker, Henry Paulson, George P. Shultz, Marty Feldstein, and Greg Mankiw—and which supports Carbon Fee and Dividend.

So what’s the problem? “Many congressional Republicans are adamantly against a tax increase of any kind, and President Trump repeatedly emphasized that he is far more interested in promoting the extraction of fossil fuels in the United States than curbing the nation’s carbon emissions.”

One can point out that something isn’t a tax when revenue is distributed to the American people. But that doesn’t affect those who view the word “tax” in the same category as terrorism and child molestation. It is a “snarl” word that stops thinking in the conservative mind. Of course those Pavlovian responses can be countered with a “purr” term to conservatives, “free market solution.”

On the bright side, only 56 percent of Congressional Republicans reject climate science. This is down considerably from just four years ago. If the GOP, who does regard climate change as a threat, could vote with Democrats, then the House could pass Carbon Fee and Dividend. The task should be easier in the Senate.

So far, the Trump Administration is silent. Whether the climate change denier, Donald Trump, would sign such a bill into law is a mystery. But there is always hope.

We can inform ourselves on the details of the plan by going to Citizen’s Climate Lobby website. Just by using Google and entering “Carbon Fee And Dividend,” it is easy to see that the plan is supported by the political left and many right wing blogs.

If you want to be an activist on the issue, a phone call or a meeting with your congressperson would be most effective. The happy people in that church room would be grateful. So would your grandchildren and especially your great-grandchildren!




Author: Keith Shirey

Image: Flickr/Mark Dixon

Editor: Travis May

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