Episode 85: Economics, Justice, and Carbon Price Solutions 

Nokwanda Maseko

Nokwanda Maseko, South African Economist at Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies

Episode 85: Economics, Justice, and Carbon Price Solutions 

For this episode of Citizens’ Climate Radio, interns Ruth Abraham and Lila Powell take over the show and take a deep dive into the world of carbon pricing. 

Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s carbon pricing page states: “A strong, economy-wide price on carbon could reduce America’s carbon pollution by 50% by 2030, putting us on track to reach net zero [carbon production] by 2050.”

Carbon pricing is an economic solution to climate change. When Marshall Saunders first envisioned the creation of CCL, cap-and-trade was the primary way lawmakers heard about carbon pricing. But through relentless messaging and volunteer lobbying, the discussion has shifted to carbon fee and dividend. 

The ultimate goal? Incentivize both businesses and individuals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Citizens’ Climate Lobby advocates for a carbon fee and dividend, an economy-wide fee that is then returned to citizens. At the point of extraction, a fee will be placed on fossil fuels, incentivizing both businesses and people to slowly but surely rely on renewables. This collected store of cash will then be distributed to individuals, flowing through the economy.

Naomi Shimberg

Naomi Shimberg

Naomi Shimberg is a self-described aspiring economist who hopes to research the design of environmental and energy policy. 

A recent graduate at Yale with a B.A. in Ethics, Politics, and Economics, Shimberg was the senior producer at Pricing Nature where she produced and hosted episodes of Pricing Nature, a podcast on the economics of climate change. She spends her time explaining externalities and the infamous  “social cost of carbon.” Shimberg also establishes that environmental inequities are essential to determining an appropriate climate price. Furthermore, she mentions that while it is efficient in reducing pollution it’s not an entirely equitable tool. 

Nokwanda Maseko

Nokwanda Maseko

Nokwanda Maseko is now a Senior Economist at Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies’ with a background in development economics. Nokwanda conducts economic research, with a focus on industrial policy, trade, and climate change. Gender and the Just Transition in South Africa is a topic Nokwanda enjoys and is able to work on professionally. In this episode, Nokwanda says that although carbon pricing can help reduce emissions and promote innovation, it can also potentially increase costs for marginalized communities. Nokwanda discusses how general development as well as the transportation, agriculture, and energy production sectors in South Africa have several factors to consider when envisioning a green and equitable future. 

The benefits of carbon pricing include but are not limited to affordable clean energy, saved lives due to the restoration of clean air, and the innovation of American businesses. 

Dig Deeper 

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Nerd Corner

Dana Nuccitelli highlights climate research (and makes it understandable) for fellow nerds and the nerd curious! In this episode Dana explains the basics behind addressing pollution and equity through carbon fee and dividend

Check out Dana’s post about how far and fast a price on carbon can drive down emissions within the United States here

Good News Story

Citizens’ Climate Radio host, Peterson Toscano, shares good news about the Conservative Climate Caucus in the House of Representatives. It is much bigger than most people could have ever imagined! 

If you have an idea for a Good News Story, contact us:  

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Read the Transcript
Episode 85: Economics, Justice, and Carbon Price Solutions

Lila Powell  0:00  

Welcome to Citizens Climate Radio, your climate change podcast. In this show, we highlight people’s stories. We celebrate your successes, and together we share strategies for talking about climate change. I’m Ruth Abraham.


Lila Powell  0:13  

And I’m Lila Powell. Welcome to Episode 85 of Citizens Climate Radio, a project of Citizens Climate Education.


Lila Powell  0:20  

This episode is airing on Friday, June 30 2023. In a recent episode of Citizens Climate Radio, everyone’s favorite podcast host Peterson Toscano said something along the lines of… 


Peterson Toscano  0:33  

y’all are learning too much too fast. You’re gonna be taking this thing away from me. I could just see it right now.


Lila Powell  0:38  

So Ruth and I decided to take over and put the show together for you. Dana Nuccitelli is back with the Nerd Corner. Today, he’s going to be talking about carbon pricing.


Lila Powell  0:46  

In fact, most of this episode will be about carbon pricing. Today we’ll be hearing from two climate enthusiasts and how they work with carbon pricing in their daily lives.


Lila Powell  0:56  

We interviewed Naomi Shimberg in the USA and Nokwanda Maseko in South Africa to hear their thoughts about carbon pricing. Naomi Shimberg grew up in Rhode Island and now lives in Connecticut and attends Yale University. Naomi studies Ethics, Politics, and Economics, which she picks in such a broad major. Her true passion is in climate economics. 


Lila Powell  1:16  

And like a lot of us interested in climate advocacy, Naomi had a moment that really pulled her into environmental work.


Naomi Shimberg  1:24  

The summer after my first year, I worked in the backcountry hut on the Appalachian Trail. [I] really felt like the tug of the wilderness and like the tug of the Earth, and that was what I decided I wanted to do. Since then, I started a program at Yale called Energy Studies. I do that, and I mainly am focused on environmental economics and climate policy at Yale.


Lila Powell  1:47  

Naomi’s on the team of a podcast that took a deep dive into the topic of carbon pricing. Pricing Nature is a podcast that tells a story about the economics, politics and history of carbon pricing. It’s a project of Yale’s Tobin Center for Economic Policy.


Naomi Shimberg  2:03  

So I was a sophomore at the time, I applied to a job to work at the low carbon charge of which Casey Pickett, who’s the host of the podcast is the director of. I was totally under qualified for the job. I had just taken one course. It was Bill Nordhaus, of course, he was a Nobel Prize winner, but still, like I didn’t know anything. But I wrote in my application to this graduate student researcher position that I had done research on the social discount rate, which is a really important metric in determining the social cost of carbon. I didn’t get the job. I didn’t even get an interview. But I got a really weird email out of the blue from Casey Pickett( who I didn’t know who he was at the time) saying, “I’ve heard that you do research on the social discount rate. Can you come give me a presentation?” I forwarded the email to my parents. I was like, “What is this,” but I got all dressed up, made a PowerPoint presentation. 


Naomi Shimberg  2:52  

Casey’s office is in the Provost Office, which is like a skyscraper on campus. It’s very intimidating. And I gave my little presentation. And Jacob Miller, who’s also the senior producer, and sound engineer on the podcast was there. He was graduating that spring. I gave my presentation and they liked it. And they kind of were like, “Should you just come work on the podcast?” And so then they were like, do you want to work on this with us? The first episode I worked on for Pricing Nature was the first episode of our last season, which is called, “What’s the right price for carbon emissions?” It’s a very technical episode about the social cost of carbon. 


Naomi Shimberg  3:24  

Casey tore apart the first draft. And it was a really amazing experience for me, because I think it was the first time where an adult had ever engaged so vehemently in my writing. And I’m very like, lucky to have that. But I remember like, being very hurt. I’m not, it’s not the right word. But upset. What I’ve learned is, each sentence has to be one phrase. And you have to get to the point, like immediately, you need to speak clearly. And you need to enunciate like all of that. And in terms of interviewing, I’ve also learned just like how to challenge people who may have much more tenure than I do, or people whose politics I disagree with which are also really important skills.


Lila Powell  4:07  

Bipartisanship is essential to do effective climate work. Naomi even describes their political party as geekiness.


Ruth Abraham  4:14  

We asked Naomi to get geeky and tell us more about carbon pricing.


Naomi Shimberg  4:18  

I would say the basic idea is how are we going to put a value on the preservation of nature. The place where I would start where the experts start is talking about externalities. What we price in the economy, what we can see what we value by putting a dollar on it, we might pay for certain things that we value, but there’s also pollution, we don’t fully capture the negative effects of pollution, specifically, greenhouse gas emissions. We don’t pay for those climate impacts. 


Naomi Shimberg  4:47  

Carbon pricing is all about internalizing those externalities. We have something called the social cost of carbon, which in an ideal world, is what we would pay to fully internalize those externalities and that, you know, that number started pretty low. The first interagency estimate was somewhere in the order of magnitude of around $30 per ton $40 per ton. Now, people are saying the new Biden social cost of carbon might be somewhere as high as $150 per ton. And so that’s the number that a carbon pricing bill should be if it theoretically wants to internalize all of the externalities. If this is going to be a tax, which in some cases it is, how are we going to spend that revenue? 


Naomi Shimberg  5:30  

The politics are very different than the economics, which I think is the most important lesson that I’ve learned working on Pricing Nature. To the progressives, David Robert says it best I think he says (and this was in referring to the Washington’s new carbon pricing bill)  “carbon pricing should  just be in the background, sort of like mopping up the dirt.” I would say in the beginning. And like when I started doing this work, I would not have gotten behind that I would say no carbon pricing is a really important policy, we should set the price as high as possible. And I still think we should be setting prices, you know, as high as they can be politically tolerated. But I don’t think that they are the silver bullet at all. And I think it’s a much broader set of regulatory and community based programs that should be addressing this issue. That is hard, because inall aspects of democratic politics there’s pressure from both sides. And in the end, you don’t get anything that you want.


Lila Powell  6:26  

I think that happens a lot where everyone wants something different, and then nothing happens at all.


Lila Powell  6:31  

That’s why Citizens Climate Lobby does a lot to reach out to both conservatives AND progressives. The goal is to pass bipartisan legislation. 


Naomi Shimberg  6:41  

People of color, low income individuals live in communities that have historically experienced disproportionate pollution burdens. We need climate policies that will improve equity and will reduce pollution in certain areas more than other areas. The power of carbon pricing is that it does not do that. It tries to reduce pollution most efficiently, which is not targeted. And so there’s like a fundamental disconnect between what many progressives want or maybe what many environmental justice organizations want, and what people from the right who you know, believe in market based solutions also are very valid in saying, “we want the solution that will reduce emissions in the cheapest way.” And you know, the way to do that is to find those plants that are most expensive, try to move them, you know, off the market or towards renewables. 


Naomi Shimberg  7:34  

The question I asked myself, after I decided I wanted to work in this space was like, “How can I best contribute to it?” For me, I think it’s through economics and research and being able to answer people’s questions when they say, “why does this investment make sense?” This podcast has been a really important period of growth for me in understanding how I want to communicate my politics and or just communicate my economics to people, which is a really important skill that I’ll take with me. So I would say, probably leave the field of audio journalism, but certainly not the field of climate economics and policy.


Lila Powell  8:11  

So we’ve heard from Naomi in the US. Now let’s hear about an Nokwanda’s climate work abroad.


Lila Powell  8:16  

Nokwanda Maseko hails from South Africa, she currently serves as a budget analyst with a background in development economics. Her niche background makes her an innovator in her field.


Nokwanda Maseko  8:29  

I am a queer black woman, I don’t necessarily always identify as a woman. But I think that’s one of those big identities that exist within me. And that particular identity helps me to frame how I decide to live my life, but also how I do the work that I do. Probably growing up extremely poor as well just helped me frame how I think about the economy in terms of what is equitable distribution look like? I always like to describe it as at the intersection of climate change, just transition, obviously, gender, as well as industrial policy.


Lila Powell  9:15  

Nokwanda is able to make connections topics that are seemingly separate. In fact, Nokwanda helps us bridge the gap between economics and climate change.


Lila Powell  9:23  

South Africa ranks in the top 10 most developed African nations, but this comes with its own challenges.


Nokwanda Maseko  9:30  

Right now, because of the droughts that have been going on. We’re facing food scarcity. We are facing food security issues,. We’re facing water security issues. Water is not just disappearing, most of it is going to industrial agriculture, which is a thing that’s also growing in South Africa. We see that even in the types of crops we’re growing. Sure, South Africans are still growing maize, which is a staple food in South Africa, but with now we’ve also done the American  thing, which is we’re trying to move everything so that we’re producing soy beans. You look at what that means for food security in a country where the majority of black children live in poverty. 


Nokwanda Maseko  10:18  

It’s scary for me, because within the context of climate change, you also have to look at questions of food security, but we don’t seem to be considering that right now. We’re just looking at, okay, but what’s going to help farmers get the most money? It’s not complicated. It’s just the way that we think about it. I think we’ve we’ve tended to look more at what’s going to drive organizational growth in terms of profits, what’s going to put more money in business owners pockets, like we have looked at the houses affecting the climate, and what does it mean for the people that survive on that food, I just tend to think of it as intersecting with different aspects of society.


Lila Powell  11:10  

Nokwanda is able to speak about the current economic state of South Africa so well, but the country is also suffering from a troubled past. Apartheid Era rules still has its effects on the transportation sector to this day,


Nokwanda Maseko  11:24  

We also face the issue of really horrible Apartheid, era spatial planning. So all the workers and in this case, all the workers of black, and essentially all the madams or bosses arewhite, right? So all the workers live outside of the cities. And they have to figure out how to get into the cities for work, and then get out of the cities to go back home. 


Nokwanda Maseko  11:54  

The problem is, there is no centralized public transportation. Yes, there are taxis. Those are minibus taxis that train people to and from work. But if you look at just how bad the condition of some of those taxis are. It’s very scary that everyday people get into those cars and go to work. With regards to public transportation, prior to 1994, I don’t think it was a thing that was thought of to say, well, actually, we need to figure out how to transport these groups of people, the majority of whom are black. Essentially, then Black people have to figure out how to get to and from work with very disjointed public transportation. If you look at the existing rail infrastructure, yes, there are, I think it exists in about four provinces and South Africa. In the Western Cape, it’s used to carry passengers. I think it’s the same thing in Capeland and the Eastern Cape. 


Nokwanda Maseko  13:06  

Most of what exists right now is actually used to carry freight to export terminals. But even then, there were changes in like the late 80s, early 90s, which saw the bulk of South African freight moved from rail to road. When you look back right now, at those decisions, you can see where the problems started in terms of leaving that infrastructure uncared for, to the point where now it’s very difficult to figure out how to create a rail system that will transport most South Africans. They’ve tried it with the Gautrain train, which is heavily subsidized by the state. But even then, it’s not a very consumer friendly thing. 


Nokwanda Maseko  13:58  

It’s a very upper middle class form of transportation. Even I as someone who’s generally considered as part of the middle class, whenever I have to use the Gautrain, I do a double take, because why is it so expensive, and to even think of the fact that it’s subsidized by the state. In South Africa, there’s also then questions on safety. There’s quite a lot of violence. And I don’t want to sound insensitive here, we don’t necessarily have too many mass shootings, as happens in the States. But there is so much violence in this country, that as a person, as a woman, as a black person, as a queer person. It’s very difficult to just get into public transit and be assured that I can travel at any time so therefore, the better option for me [one] that has the resources is to buy a car That’s about bringing together the many different aspects of, you know, public safety, but also centralized transport systems, which would then make it easier for us to have the conversation about moving towards public transportation rather than having our own private vehicles.


Lila Powell  15:23  

Unfortunately, transportation is not the only sector that’s affected, black South Africans have been involved in the informal economy, therefore, they are not responsible for a majority of the admissions, most of that comes from energy production, which has heavily relied on coal, the energy infrastructure is quickly falling apart, and there is a hope that renewable energy will become a workable alternative. But will that energy be available to all,


Nokwanda Maseko  15:49  

As I said, I grew up in a rural area. It was not until I was about 11, or 12, that we’ve had electricity at home. There are people right now living in areas where there is no electricity. Even those emissions from coal, they don’t necessarily always come to the benefit of black people. But that said, if we step away from the energy conversation. As a start to go to transportation, for example, and all these different sectors, again, you find that the people that are going to feel the impact of climate change the most are Black people. Also, you have to consider that in the context of this, so many things that we have to address for that we have to solve for. So right now we’re talking about the Just Transition. The gap there is that we’re so focused on, what do we do about the workers that are going to lose jobs. 


Nokwanda Maseko  16:58  

We’re not thinking about the fact that there are people who don’t necessarily have jobs, the majority of whom are black, who are then left out of the just transition conversation, just by virtue of them not having jobs. It’s also rare for women, women cannot transition from jobs that they do not have. In the context of everyone, people cannot transition from jobs they do not have. How do we then talk about this as a Just Transition, if we’re only talking about a small proportion of people in South Africa? As you know, we have very high unemployment. And so that tells you that the conversation about the just transition, if we’re just focusing on labor, is about that small subset of about 14 15 million people out of a total population of almost 59 million people. 


Nokwanda Maseko  16:58  

What does a Just Transition look like? In that context? It has to be about justice? How do we take care of the people that have contributed the list to climate change, but are going to feel the impact the most. And we’re seeing that in terms of the biophysical impacts of climate change, we’re seeing that in the drought, we’re seeing that in the constant flooding. How do we then have a conversation about how to assist that person and make sure that they’re not left behind in the conversation about a just transition, but also leave them with enough autonomy to actually decide for themselves? What it is they want to do, what kind of help they need, and where they want to go with their future.


Ruth Abraham  19:00  

Disproportionate effects of climate change, along with economic inequity impacts South African agriculture as well.


Nokwanda Maseko  19:07  

For the longest time when I was a child, I remember around summer time, I would be able to go outside, just take a few steps, and I could get a cob of corn right from the plant. But what has happened over the years is that nothing grows anymore. There was a point where the maize would grow about knee length and then would just start browning. So then my grandmother stopped farming, the whole homestead, try to focus on just a small portion. 


Nokwanda Maseko  19:44  

This is not just the experience of my grandmother is it’s the experience of many people around the country who are now struggling to grow food that they can then sell because of climate change. And so the trying to grow whatever few stuff that they can grow and feed their families. But we’re not necessarily talking about those people and how best to support them because we don’t think of them as being part of the economy. When we start from the point of justice and expanding the table so that more people are involved. I think it gets us much closer to where we are trying to go with this particular conversation, and this particular context of trying to make sure that people are surviving and living and thriving .


Lila Powell  20:41  

Many thanks to Naomi Schoenberg and quantum asseco. for enlightening us on carbon pricing. Make sure you check out the podcast Pricing Nature, it’s available wherever you get podcasts. You can also follow us on Twitter at @NDAKWANO.


Lila Powell  20:58  

Oh, you can also take a meaningful next step and learn more about carbon pricing. Check out our dig deeper link on the Citizens Climate Radio blog post. Now, it is time for the nerd corner hosted by Dana Nuccitelli, Citizens Climate Research Coordinator.


Dana Nuccitelli  21:15  

Hi, I’m Dana Nuccitelli and this is the nerd corner. I’m here to highlight some interesting new climate research for the nerds out there and to make it understandable for the nerd-curious. In this episode, we consider the question: How well is carbon pricing succeeding around the world? The answer is better than you might think. As of 2022, nearly 70 countries, states and provinces had carbon pricing policies. That is to say they tax or otherwise raise the price of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas based on how much carbon pollution they admit when burned. Just as tobacco taxes strongly discourage smoking cigarettes, so carbon taxes are a powerful way to discourage the use of climate polluting fuels. Carbon pricing also encourages consumers and businesses to switch to cleaner alternatives like renewable energy and electric vehicles. 


Dana Nuccitelli  22:14  

As the world’s top producer of oil and gas, the United States has powerful interest groups that resist carbon pricing. Even so 11 northeastern states belong to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. That’s a system that puts a price on carbon emissions from the power sector. California covers about 80% of its carbon pollution with a rising price. At the start of 2023, the State of Washington joined their ranks with a similar program, one that aims to slash the state’s emissions 95% by 2050. Despite all that, critics often say carbon pricing is political poison that will never win voter approval. They ignore the fact that in 2019, our oil producing neighbor to the north Canada passed a broad national carbon fee and dividend one that rises every year. They also ignore the fact that the European Union has reaffirmed its commitment to climate mitigation by driving its carbon price above $100 per ton of carbon dioxide. 


Dana Nuccitelli  23:17  

Economists say global warming could be kept to a manageable two degrees Celsius if the world adopted a carbon price of just $75 per ton by 2030. Polling consistently shows the American public also favors taxing carbon polluters to help pay for the green transition our economy needs. We know it can get enacted. We know it works. And with a powerful citizen movement, we can make it happen. I’m Dana Nuccitelli with the nerd corner. Thanks for being curious and for your commitment to climate progress. And join the discussion about climate science, technology, Economics and Policy with CCL research team, check out the nerd corner at CCLusa.org/nerd-corner. That’s CCLusa.org/nerd-corner I hope to see you there.


Lila Powell  24:07  

Thank you, Dana. If you have a question for Dana, email us at That’s We’ll make sure you get your question and read more analysis by Dana by visiting CCLusa.org/nerd-corner. That’s CCLusa.org/nerd-corner.


Lila Powell  24:32  

Since we know you’ve missed him, this episode our Good News story today comes from Peterson.


Peterson Toscano  24:38  

In March, I got to travel to Washington DC and lobby my member of Congress. It was incredibly exciting to be back in the Senate and House office buildings. In fact, it was the first CCL in person lobby day since before the pandemic. I joined CCL[s conservative conference members for this day of lobbying. It was a huge success. It was amazing to watch how conservative lawmakers responded to these conservative lobbyists. 


Peterson Toscano  25:10  

It culminated with the reception on the hill with members of Congress present Republican Representative John Curtis from Utah, he founded the house conservative climate caucus. And he told us that that is the largest Caucus in the House with over 80 members. As someone committed to bipartisan climate action. I was incredibly thrilled to hear that. So that’s really good news. And CCL has done it again with an even bigger bipartisan lobby day earlier this month. Back to you, Ruth and Lila, you’re doing a great job.


Lila Powell  25:47  

If you have good news you want to share on the show, email me . That’s


Ruth Abraham  25:57  

Thank you for joining us for Episode 85 of Citizens Climate Radio

Special thanks to the members of our Advisory Board: Tamara Staton, Meggie Stenback, Katie Zakrzewski, Sharon Bagatell, Caillie Roach, Solemi Hernandez,  Hannah Rogers, Sean Dague, and Brett Cease.


Lila Powell  26:15  

This episode of Citizens Climate Radio was written and produced by us, Ruth Abraham and Lila Powell with support from Peterson Toscano and other technical support from Ricky Bradley and Brett Cease. Social media assistance from Flannery Winchester and Syeda Naqvi moral support from Madeline Para 


Ruth Abraham  26:32  

Please share Citizens Climate Radio with your friends and colleagues. You can find Citizens Climate Radio, wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also listen at Northernspiritradio.org


Lila Powell  26:44  

You can follow us on Twitter @citizenscradio.


Ruth Abraham  26:53  

Visit CitizensClimatelobby.org/blog To see our show notes and find links to our guests. Citizens Climate Radio is a project of Citizens Climate Education.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai