As natural disasters like floods, wildfires and extreme drought increase in size and frequency, affecting more and more of us here and around the world, the reality of climate change is finally being accepted by the majority of people. It’s no longer viewed as a hoax (except by the most uninformed, or those beholden to the fossil fuel companies), but as a real problem that needs to be solved — and soon!
Furthermore, each climate report that’s released (such as the 2018 National Climate Assessment and the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report) confirms with a greater degree of certainty that human activity is the cause. The question now is how in the world to solve a problem that’s woven into the very fabric of our modern industrial society — and one that has become a political hot potato, hopelessly dividing and polarizing the two parties.
The answer may be a powerful solution that has support across the political spectrum: Put a robust price or fee on carbon pollution and allocate the revenue to households. Pricing carbon may be our ticket out of stalemate, and in fact just before members of Congress left for their August recess, several carbon-pricing bills were introduced in both the House and Senate — some bipartisan. The new bills affirm the growing appetite in Congress to price carbon, and their introduction is likely to bring more Republicans and Democrats into the evolving conversation on climate solutions.
Earlier this year, though, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) was introduced, which is the only bipartisan bill with significant support and probably has the best chance of passing. This legislation would place a fee on the amount of greenhouse gases a fuel will emit when burned, starting at $15 per ton and rising $10 per ton each year. All revenue from the fee would be distributed among all households, ensuring that most will break even or come out ahead financially when the fees are inevitably passed on to consumers by the fossil fuel companies.
To protect American businesses from unfair competition, the bill would apply a border carbon adjustment on imports from nations that have no equivalent price on carbon.
None of the money collected would be kept by and therefore enlarge the government, making the policy revenue-neutral — a point that appeals to conservatives and increases bipartisanship.
This policy alone is projected to reduce carbon emissions 40 percent within the first 12 years and 90 percent by 2050, exceeding the now-dismantled Clean Power Plan as well as the U.S. goals established under the Paris Climate Agreement.
Besides its effectiveness, it would create 2.1 million new jobs in the first decade, thanks to economic growth in local communities. And as a bonus, it would improve health and save lives by reducing air pollution. The carbon dividend would also put money directly in people’s pockets every month to spend as they wish, which would help low- and middle-income Americans in particular.
So who exactly supports this bill? Well, people like George Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State; Steven Chu, former U.S. Secretary of Energy; Dr. James Hansen, climate scientist; Wesley Clark, U.S. Army general (ret.); Bradley Whitford, actor; Jessie Diggins, U.S. cross country skier and 2018 Olympic gold medalist; and many more.
Close to home, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed the bill, and the L.A. County Democratic Party endorsed it as well.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution in June urging Congress to pass carbon pricing legislation, with Mayor Eric Garcetti among the mayors introducing the legislation. In 2016, the state of California passed a resolution urging Congress to pass carbon fee and dividend legislation that is practically identical to H.R. 763.
Perhaps most importantly, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found in its August 2018 survey that, nationwide, 68% of respondents said they would support this type of revenue-neutral carbon tax and only 29% were opposed. That support is strong throughout all parts of the country.
The Energy Innovation Act currently has 59 co-sponsors in the House — the highest number of co-sponsors for any carbon-pricing bill ever introduced in Congress. Since this is the best metric of support from members of Congress, the Santa Clarita Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby urges Rep. Katie Hill, D-Agua Dulce, to co-sponsor H.R. 763. California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris should also be encouraged to support a Senate version of the bill when it is introduced.
Only united can we stop climate catastrophe. Let us begin!
Cher Gilmore is a member of the Santa Clarita Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby and lives in Newhall.