Did you read the Climate Emergency item in the Earthweek article in Sunday’s (Nov. 10) Missoulian? Did you experience the sinking in your gut from another dire warning about climate change? The article summarized a recent report from the journal "BioScience" in which 11,000 scientists from 153 countries declared a “climate emergency” and warned of “untold human suffering” unless we make large and lasting changes to curb global warming.
If you are like me, you are not immune to these warnings. Most of us would like to make lifestyle changes if we could, but it feels close to impossible. We need our cars to get to work, to school and to shop. We would like to drive less, but we’re not going to deprive our kids of participating in out-of-town sporting events. We know airplanes are big polluters, but we can’t miss that family wedding on the East Coast or that work conference in Houston. We have no idea how to address this overwhelming problem, and so it gets tucked into a back corner of our minds, labeled “Things to Worry About Later.”
The problem is that later is now here. In Montana, record-breaking heat and drought during the summer of 2017 led to one of the worst wildfire seasons in memory. This summer, Europe experienced record-breaking temperatures with a heat wave that penetrated into the Arctic, melting some 40 billion tons of Greenland’s ice sheet. Some 2,964 people died during the week of that heat wave; an increase of about 14% from a normal summer week.
Economic records are being broken as severe weather events rack up costs in the billions of dollars. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2019 is the fifth consecutive year in which 10 or more billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events have impacted the United States. This is on top of the health costs of fossil fuel air pollution, which have been estimated at $120 billion annually.
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I have some good news. There is a solution that offers hope for turning things around. It is known as the climate fee and dividend policy, and it’s been endorsed by over 3,445 American economists, including four former chairs of the Federal Reserve, 27 Nobel Laureate economists and two former secretaries of the U.S. Department of Treasury.
These economists agree that a rising carbon fee offers the most cost-effective climate policy solution, sending a powerful price signal to businesses and consumers. This approach uses the market to stimulate innovation, create jobs and improve health. The plan’s basic outline includes a fee on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. The fee starts low and grows over time. It will drive down carbon pollution because energy companies, industries and consumers will move toward cleaner, cheaper options. The money collected from the carbon fee is allocated in equal shares every month to the American people to spend as they see fit. The government does not keep any of the money from the carbon fee.
There’s more good news. There is a nonpartisan organization that has formulated federal legislation based on this policy. They are laser-focused on educating people about this legislation, called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, and lobbying members of Congress for its passage. Citizens’ Climate Lobby relies on the tools of democracy to give people a voice and support actions to work towards the adoption of fair, effective and sustainable climate change solutions.
There is a CCL chapter in Missoula and we’d welcome your questions and involvement. If you’d like to learn more about Citizens’ Climate Lobby or how to join the Missoula chapter, please go to citizensclimatelobby.org.