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Most people see the climate warming. Increasingly, we fear our future. We now possess the know-how to solve this while raising our standard of living.

As Dr. Cathy Whitlock, Montana State University regents professor and lead author of the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment, explains:

“Current climate change exceeds anything that we have witnessed over the last 800,000 years. The physical geological evidence of past climate change during glacial-interglacial cycles is unmistakable on the landscapes upon which we built civilization. During glacial periods, so much land was covered in ice sheets that sea level was nearly 300 feet lower than today, which is in a warm interglacial period. These cycles have been initiated by variations in the amount of sunlight reaching earth over tens of thousands of years. Given where earth is in those cycles and short-term variations in sunspot activity, our climate should be cooling, but instead it is rapidly warming. Building on nearly two centuries of climate scientific work, and incorporating current analyses, there is a scientific consensus the global temperature increase is linked, with 99.99% certainty, to increased greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, chiefly due to burning fossil fuels to power civilization. From examining GHGs present in air bubbles trapped in Antarctica ice, we know this increase is unprecedented. Up until 200 years ago, concentrations of the major atmospheric GHG’s, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), had not exceeded about 280 ppm and 790 ppb, respectively, for 800,000 years. CO2 reached 407.4 ppm and continues to rise. Methane, which is a twenty-five times more powerful GHG, pound-for-pound, than CO2, now exceeds 1,866 ppb. GHGs, like window glass, allow sunlight to pass through but reflect back heat. That’s why the inside of your car heats up when the sun is out and the windows are closed. Open the windows, the heat escapes.”

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Actions that will make the biggest difference:

To lower atmospheric GHGs and reverse or stabilize warming, we must rebuild our energy economy to carbon-neutral within 20 years and to carbon-free within the next 30. Because CO2 will be removed over many years primarily through carbon storage in plants, maximizing growth of forests, perennial grasslands and shrubs is a key.

The poorest of a 7.7 billion population face catastrophe from rising seas. We must think globally and act locally.

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Where will we get the money?

Many expert economists, including Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke, have endorsed a refunded carbon tax like H.R. 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EnergyInnovationAct.org). The EICDA is revenue-neutral, with no impact on Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

EICDA is market-based. It taxes fossil-fuel producers starting at $15 per metric ton for CO2 and increases at $10 per year, or $15 if emissions targets aren’t met. Methane is taxed similarly. EICDA incentivizes technological innovation, large-scale infrastructure development and the diffusion of carbon-efficient goods and services. A macroeconomic analysis shows 2.1 million jobs created in 10 years. GDP increases $70 billion-$85 billion after four years, and cumulatively $1.375 trillion in 20 years. (citizensclimatelobby.org)

Under EICDA, a $100 CO2 tax increases the price of regular gasoline about $1 at the pump, producing a powerful incentive to invest in lower carbon vehicles. Imagine these incentives driving rebuilding Colstrip into a clean electricity export boom town, and advancing your community’s plans. Yet, low-or-fixed income households with lower consumption will have dividends exceeding emission taxes. Farmers and ranchers pay no tax for agricultural uses.

EICDA tax revenues peak in year 10, then decline as we build a carbon-free energy economy to raise the standard of living for all humanity.

Please ask our U.S. senators and representative to sponsor ECIDA today.

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John Noreika Sr. of Belgrade is a former coal engineer and retired from a career in economic development.

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