Climate change is causing major disruptions in our environment — we daily read about record-high temperatures, destructive storms, unprecedented floods and droughts, and ocean acidification. Downtown Olympia is vulnerable to sea-level rise, while many areas of our state are already being devastated by wildfires. NOAA confirms that 2016 was the third year in a row of record-setting global temperatures. Climate change will lead to even more severe impacts if we fail to act.
Climate change is driven primarily by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Experts agree that we need to quickly and substantially reduce our use of carbon-emitting fuels in order to mitigate and prevent the worst effects on the environment, health and our economy.
We call for a simple, straightforward, market-based nationwide approach that will induce corporations and citizens to substantially reduce carbon emissions.
Carbon Fee and Dividend is a national proposal — sponsored by Citizens’ Climate Lobby — that would attach a steadily rising price to the production and use of fossil fuels (the fee) and return the money back to families in equal shares (the dividend). Raising prices on carbon pollution for both industry and consumers will help spur the development and use of clean energy alternatives and accelerate the shift to less carbon-intensive sources of energy, fuels and consumer products.
Here’s how it works: Carbon Fee and Dividend begins with a fee on fossil fuels of $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide (approximately equivalent to 15 cents per gallon of gasoline). This fee increases $10/ton annually. A border adjustment is imposed on imports to level the playing field. This approach would reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent in 20 years.
Since most wealthy individuals have a larger carbon footprint (bigger homes, more travel), they pay more in carbon fees than they get back in dividends. But for low-income and most middle income folks (about two thirds of all Americans), the monthly dividend will more than offset the higher price of fossil fuels. An independent economic analysis shows that this approach will also create millions of jobs, save thousands of lives due to cleaner air and help our most vulnerable households.
Pricing carbon works: A similar mechanism in place in British Columbia has helped reduce carbon emissions by 5 percent to 15 percent, without harming the economy.
Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a national, bipartisan “grass-roots” organization with an active chapter in Olympia. A national “grass-tops” organization of former Cabinet members and others, the Climate Leadership Council, has recently made a proposal that includes an idea similar to Carbon Fee and Dividend. Remarkably, two very different organizations advocate similar policy proposals. We applaud this agreement, while retaining the right to differ on specific provisions.
We need to enact a common-sense policy such as Carbon Fee and Dividend soon to create a more livable world.
See CitizensClimateLobby.org for more information.
Sam Merrill is a member of Olympia Chapter, Citizens’ Climate Lobby