Americans have a moral obligation to tackle climate change now
By Daniela Brod
My children’s names are Aaron and Norah. Aaron is a somewhat serious 9-yr-old who likes to build things and tease his sister. Norah is a bubbly, curly haired 4-year-old who likes princesses and anything pink or green, especially if it is growing in the garden. Hearing about climate change denial makes me feel frustrated that my children’s future is dangerously at stake. I know that with global warming there are only two uncertainties: “How bad will things get and how quickly will things deteriorate?”
According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate change is happening and will continue to happen in the decades to come. Some extreme weather events have increased in recent decades, and new and stronger evidence confirms that some of these increases are related to human activities. In my gut, I feel that what is happening now in the Pacific Northwest is reason enough to know that something very wrong is happening and we face the choice to either ignore and deny or find the courage to act.
Last year, Oregon experienced its worst wildfire season in over 60 years, and this year Washington is well on its way to breaking a similar record.
In the Columbia River Gorge and eastern Oregon, we see pine die-offs from insect damage caused by increased drought stress
Local Willamette Valley farmers say that many of the most extreme weather events have occurred in the most recent 5-10 years.
Along our coasts, we are seeing changes that affect marine organisms and ecosystems from unprecedented rates of ocean acidification. The oyster industry is particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification and has experienced a 60 percent drop in hatchery production of oysters in 2008 and an 80 percent drop in production in 2009.
Whether or not we succeed at thwarting escalating climate change impacts is today’s ultimate test of humanity, not unlike the cold war challenges of over half a century ago. For now, the best solution in consideration is a revenue-neutral carbon tax where a fee would be placed on carbon at the point of extraction that would be returned 100 percent to American households through a dividend check. This is a market-based solution favored by a number of conservatives including Art Laffer, Reagan’s economic advisor, and Henry M. Paulson Jr., former secretary of the Treasury.
A well-designed carbon tax that recycles revenue back to households would protect families from rising costs and add jobs. A recent study by Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) evaluates the impacts of a gradually increasing national revenue-neutral carbon tax. That study showed that under such a plan the United States would reduce CO2 emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels while simultaneously adding $1.375 trillion to the GDP and adding 2.8 million jobs.
Real income would increase and premature deaths would decrease by 227,000.
A revenue-neutral carbon tax is something both staunch fiscal conservatives and liberals can get behind, which is why I urge Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici to take the lead and work with Republicans to pass a carbon fee that gives money back to households. If we allow partisan politics to get in our way, we will not be able to look our children in the eye a few decades from now and say we did the best we could.
Daniela Brod is a former watershed planner with the city of Portland and a member of the volunteer-based Citizens’ Climate Lobby.