As has been widely reported, global climate change is causing or exacerbating the harm from multiple kinds of disasters. Wildfires in California have killed hundreds of people, drought in Arizona is having a devastating impact on farmers and ranchers, hurricanes have killed thousands and caused billions of dollars in economic loss, and flooding has left thousands of people homeless.
All of these have combined to erase any doubts that the harm is current, not something that will happen in the distant future, but rather something that is occurring now. Moreover, scientists tell us that the harm from fossil fuel emissions will become more severe if we don’t act now. Unfortunately, the issue, which is not political, has become politicized and this has made bipartisan action extremely difficult.
Fortunately, the partisan gridlock has been broken by five brave representatives, two Republicans and three Democrats, who on Nov. 27 introduced the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, an act closely modeled on what has been proposed by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Citizens Climate Lobby, which has worked for many years to advance carbon fee and dividend legislation to mitigate the harm from global climate change.
This act would place a fee of $15 per ton on carbon emissions and would raise that fee by $10 per ton of CO2 emissions every year. All the proceeds from that fee would then be given back as a rebate to the American public. Additionally, the plan contains a border adjustment so that importers from countries without a carbon fee would have to pay the fee when their goods entered the United States, while exporters to those countries would not be charged the fee.
Along with protecting American manufacturers from having to bear a cost that foreign manufacturers don’t have, the border adjustment will encourage international adoption of carbon fee and dividend and will further reduce the use of fossil fuels.
Economic modeling of the plan shows it would, over 20 years, reduce emissions to less than half of what they were in 1990, would result in a net gain of 2 million new jobs, would dramatically reduce pulmonary disease, and would financially benefit over 70 percent of all Americans, particularly low-income families. While the bill does contain some carve outs for agricultural emissions and does do away with some federal regulations, it more than achieves the goals set out in the Paris Climate Accords.
“To call this legislation a breakthrough is an understatement,” said Citizens’ Climate Lobby Executive Director Mark Reynolds. “Any long-term solution needs buy-in from both Republicans and Democrats. And now that their constituents are feeling the negative effects of climate change firsthand, both sides are more willing to cooperate on a solution that brings about real change.”
This may be the game changer that many of us have been hoping for. The representatives who introduced this legislation — Republicans Francis Rooney and Brian Fitzpatrick, and Democrats Ted Deutch, Charlie Crist and John Delaney — deserve our thanks for their courage and our congressional representatives should be asked to support the plan.