The most noticeable thing about climate change is the great silence surrounding it. The most important and pressing issue of our time sometimes appears to be a taboo subject. Yet currently, agreement on this issue is as high as it has ever been.
Yale University's Climate Opinion Map, which surveys where we stand nationally on climate issues, indicates that 70% of Americans believe climate change is happening. This number has fluctuated since the late 1980s, when the ideology of market fundamentalism emerged at the same time as climate change awareness.
Climate change took a back seat to individuals and industry pursuing their own self-interest. This remains the problem within the problem of climate change; it requires more than anything else, a collective solution.
Strategies in resolving climate change require citizens speaking up and getting involved. I recently joined an organization called Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), which is a group of volunteer citizens who lobby the government to move forward on proposals and collective solutions to combat climate change.
In November, we lobbied our newly elected representatives to propose a carbon fee and dividend. Both climate scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agree that the fastest way to phase out fossil fuels and transition into renewables is by putting a price on carbon. Since no one in the supply chain pays for the pollution from oil and natural gas extraction, this solution goes right to the source of production with a carbon fee.
Essentially, the carbon fee puts a price on pollution and charges the originator, and then redistributes it to all adult U.S. citizens as a dividend to do as they wish. The goal is to increase the carbon fee, or price of pollution, over time, making fossil fuel production expensive, and correspondingly phasing in renewables as the better option.
CCL also seeks to make climate change a bipartisan or bridge issue. It will be difficult to move forward without representatives from the other side of the aisle. In the last Congress, CCL helped launch a bipartisan group in the House called Climate Solutions Caucus, which attracted 45 members from each political party. The Climate Solutions Caucus sought to depoliticize the issue and allow both sides to discuss climate change, which is a crucial step toward any significant climate legislation.
Emissions from fossil fuels have been increasing annually since 1950. The last four years have been the hottest ever recorded. To have two hottest years in a row would be a statistical anomaly. Knowing this, we have been responding as if we are in the Stone Age waiting to run out of stone. A carbon fee and dividend, while phasing in more efficient and cleaner energy resources, is our best bet.
Yes, voter support for a carbon fee is growing along with citizen awareness but it needs to happen faster. A bipartisan bill called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act was introduced in 2018 and will be re-introduced soon. Watch for it and call your representatives to support it. It's time to speak up!
Mark L. Reed is a member of the Citizens Climate Lobby.
Answer Book 2019
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