A March 27 article in the Arizona Daily Star noted that the recent Senate vote on the Green New Deal has fueled a new round of vitriol about the climate.
While we may not all agree about the Green New Deal, most Americans believe that decisive action is needed. We also worry that any solution should not damage the economy and it must avoid harm to the poor and the vulnerable. We must find a simple, fair and efficient way to gradually migrate our nation to a zero-greenhouse-gas future.
But it seems so hard to have a civil conversation about the topic. Is there a way to right the terrible mistake that we made by making climate change a partisan issue? Can we shift away from it being a wedge that separates us to a bridge that can connect us?
I think so.
Many are calling for more regulation to fix the climate mess. But poorly designed regulations are burdensome, difficult to police, and create resentment — all of which could undermine our success. Likewise, incentives and subsidies can be potent tools for change, but they need to be financed. With a trillion-dollar U.S. deficit looming, expensive new programs without a way to pay for them would be irresponsible.
In a recent letter to the Wall Street Journal, all living former Federal Reserve chairs, several Nobel Prize winners in economics, and many former members of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers said that pricing the carbon in fossil fuels is “the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed necessary.”
Placing a fee on carbon will send a clear message to businesses and individuals that fossil fuels will only get more expensive. It would trigger changes in buying habits and drive the growth of nonpolluting energy sources and more efficient technologies.
Just as important is what should be done with the revenue collected — rather than being kept by government it should be returned to American households as a monthly dividend. Why? Rather than fueling a new round of government programs, a dividend will offset the increased cost of energy and help to ensure the fee remains politically popular. With a rebate based solely on household size, the solution is progressive, with a large majority of the poor having a little extra money in their pockets even after paying for increased energy costs.
For Pima County, such a plan could mean almost $1 billion of new, taxable revenue in year 10 alone. Nationwide, the dividend’s stimulus would drive a clean-energy economy and allow needy families to have extra money for important expenses like health care and education. It would add millions of new jobs, result in 230,000 fewer fatalities from air pollution, and cut carbon emissions by 40 percent in 12 years — more effective than the Obama Clean Power plan or the Paris accord.
Recently HR 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, was introduced in the House. This bill would be a powerful start in dealing with the damage we are doing to the climate. Arizona’s representatives need to support HR 763 because it’s effective, it would protect Arizonans, and it would be good for the economy — something we can all agree on.
And like Arizona’a senators before them, Sens. Sinema and McSally should start working together on this problem and show us that fighting climate change is something we all need to do.