We must fight climate change

Republished: OP-ED October 9, 2014

Despite pessimism, we can — and must — fight climate change

By Kyle E. Thomas

Superstorm Sandy

Aftermath of Superstorm Sandy on the Jersey shore.

In a Nov. 11, 2012, editorial following Superstorm Sandy, The Post-Standard editorial board stated: “[I]t took a superstorm to put climate change back on our national agenda. The challenge now is to keep it there.” Less than two years later, immediately following perhaps the largest climate change rally ever, The Post-Standard published an opinion column on climate change that combines pessimism and rote denial and obfuscation from a paid propagandist for the fossil fuel industry (“Will America Ever Tackle Climate Change? Should It?” Sept. 28).

To the pessimistic Joel Mathis, who implies that it is too late to address climate change: This is simply untrue! It has been shown that a properly implemented revenue-neutral carbon tax will achieve reductions in atmospheric greenhouse gases that science says we must, and result in increases in employment and economic growth both nationally and for our region.

But even more troubling than its choice to publish Mathis’s gloomy outlook on the subject is The Post-Standard’s choice to print Ben Boychuk’s opinion, which is the usual combination of denier science and either a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of policy prescriptions.
A properly implemented revenue-neutral carbon tax will achieve reductions in atmospheric greenhouse gases that science says we must.

His criticism that the vast majority of the 400,000 demonstrators at the recent climate march “weren’t scientists” is bizarre. Must one be a health professional to have an opinion that cancer is bad and that we should find a treatment? Confusingly, Boychuk is also not a scientist but he nevertheless feels that his opinion on the matter, in contrast to theirs, is not only valid, but worthy of publication. And apparently The Post-Standard agrees. That he is employed by the Heartland Institute, which has accepted huge sums of money from the fossil fuel industry to publish junk climate “science,” should have, on its own, given The Post-Standard strong reservations about publishing this opinion so prominently.

Neither Boychuk’s misrepresentation of the state of the science – there has been no equivalent published study supporting that the peer-reviewed 97 percent consensus is “highly questionable” – nor his recitations of paranoid nonsense that Al Gore, Tom Steyer, and other climate activists are inexplicably interested in lowering our quality of life, merits a response. However, the uninformed or dishonest assertion that [all climate policies] represent “a vast expansion of government and a diminution of personal freedom with zero guarantee of success” must be challenged.

Carbon tax proposals that are “revenue-neutral” would, by definition, not grow government if administered within the existing tax collection system, and to suggest such measures wouldn’t succeed in lowering greenhouse gas emissions is to deny very basic principles of market economics. Carbon tax advocates might concede Boychuk’s point that taxing carbon would represent a “diminution of personal freedom” but only in the same respect that we are not “free” to dump our trash or discharge our sewage to our neighbor’s property without cost.

It is probably futile to try to influence people who would buy what Boychuk is attempting to sell. Whether he believes it or not, the overwhelming body of science tells us that climate change is an existential threat to life on the planet and that we have a finite time frame in which to respond.

To those, on the other hand, who understand the severity of the problem, but who might share Mathis’s pessimism or even cynicism in regard to our prospects for tackling it, please check out Citizens’s Climate Lobby’s Carbon Fee-and-Dividend proposal at www.CitizensClimateLobby.org. Then support and encourage our elected representatives to support a revenue-neutral carbon tax.