As the floods and snow storms of El Nino replace the intense droughts and myriad wildfires of the summer, more and more Americans are becoming aware of how extreme weather events will increase in number and intensity if we allow climate change to continue. In 2015, world leaders finally turned their attention to the problem of climate change caused by human activity. In June, Pope Francis wrote movingly about the moral imperative to care for the environment in his encyclical “Laudato si’.” In December, at the international convention in Paris, almost 200 nations agreed on the necessity of cutting emissions of greenhouse gases down to zero sometime between 2030 and 2050. This is an ambitious goal, but a necessary one if we want to leave a livable world for our children. However, many Americans fear that a switch to greener energy will damage our economy.
Fortunately, a plan exists that will both preserve the climate and benefit the economy. Called Carbon Fee and Dividend, endorsed by bipartisan leaders, the plan features a fee, starting low and steadily rising, on fossil fuels, assessed where they enter the economy, at the well, mine, or border. This fee will send a clear signal to the market to switch to cleaner sources of energy, and it will also encourage innovation, inspiring inventors and manufacturers to design and produce greener products that will soon become cheaper than conventional ones.
An equally important part of the plan is the dividend. Unlike an energy tax, fee and dividend does not grow the government or increase the burden on average citizens. Instead, all fees collected will be returned to citizens, in equal shares. For about two thirds of Americans, the dividend received will exceed the price increases that will initially result from the fees. Most poor and middle class people will get back more money via the dividend than they will spend in higher prices for fuel or energy. Poorer people will probably spend their dividends buying things they need, so the plan will function as an economic stimulus. Also, renewable energy facilities will expand under the plan. Because of the stimulus effect and because renewable energy is more labor intensive, millions of new green jobs will be created.
The volunteer group Citizens Climate Lobby exists to foster a political solution to the problem of climate change. It encourages average people to express themselves by talking to others, writing in media, and lobbying politicians. Whatever your politics, please consider learning more about Carbon Fee and Dividend by visiting citizensclimatelobby.org. In addition, New York City has an active chapter of CCL, full of interesting and enthusiastic people, who will be happy to answer your questions and support your efforts. Can the US save the climate and boost our prosperity? If more people participate, the answer will be an emphatic “Yes!”