Let's pledge to clean skies, more jobs and a safer world
Last month in Cancun, the world’s leading climate scientists released more studies confirming the urgency to stop burning fossil fuels. One report predicts a billion people will lose their homes by the end of the century and another that food prices will double in the decades ahead. 2010 was the warmest year on record, with devastating floods in Pakistan, raging fires in Russia and many other disasters related to extreme weather events, which scientists tell us will become more frequent and severe in a changing climate.
Given the scientific evidence and events unfolding, I find it hard for anyone to deny the existence of climate change and the need to take action now. Even Shell Oil states on its website, “For us the debate on climate change is over… We are calling on governments to establish policies that will encourage a reduction in CO2 emissions.”
Many of our elected officials, on the other hand, see the situation differently. A majority of our Republican members of Congress have signed the No Climate Tax pledge being circulated by Americans for Prosperity, an organization funded by oil conglomerate Koch Industries. Our own Utah Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz have signed along with Sen. Mike Lee.
The pledge reads “I, [NAME], pledge to the taxpayers of the state of [STATE NAME] and to the American people that I will oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.”
The irony (hypocrisy?) is that most of these pledge signers who rail about our national debt also support adding tens of billions of dollars a year to the deficit by subsidizing dirty energy. Over the next five years, tax breaks and other giveaways to the oil, gas, coal, ethanol and nuclear industries will amount to $130 billion.
While the No Climate Tax pledge appears to make climate and energy legislation a non-starter for those who signed it, the wording of the pledge appears to allow for at least one solution — a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend. This proposal, from Citizens Climate Lobby and others, places a steadily rising fee on carbon-based fuels paid by producers and importers. All the revenue is distributed to the public as equal dividends for everyone.
As the cost of fossil fuels goes up, clean energy would compete on a level playing field.
This proposal would not increase the size of government — “a net increase in government revenue,” as the pledge puts it. What it would do is provide a clear price signal for investors who are waiting for assurance that backing wind, solar and other forms of clean energy will pay off in the future. It would also give citizens the extra money needed to cover rising energy costs associated with the carbon fee.
With an adequate price signal on carbon, capital will flow to the clean technologies of the future, creating a privately funded stimulus for new jobs — a win/win situation for both our troubled economy and the environment.
Carbon fee and dividend offers a painless path toward a clean-energy economy. And by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, we can enjoy cleaner air and water while minimizing the damage to the Earth’s climate. And perhaps in the future my children and grandchildren will enjoy beautiful vistas every time they hike the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.
Mark Molen is a volunteer with the Salt Lake City chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby.