Time has arrived for voters to call on Congress to reduce carbon emissions

By Guest Columnist JEFF JOSLIN, an airline captain who chairs the North Atlanta Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. 

Climate change anxiety is growing in America. Georgians are no exception. Voters in our state exhibit broad public support for actions that would tame the growing climate threat.

Jeff Joslin

Jeff Joslin

Seventy-three percent of Georgians support regulating the greenhouse gas, CO², as a pollutant. A whopping 82 percent support funding increased renewable energy research, according to results of the Yale Climate Opinion 2016.

Sadly, the Trump Administration is doing the opposite by aggressively rolling back progress. They have begun dismantling the EPA’s clean power plan and stated an intent to open public lands and waters to increased coal mining and oil drilling. Plans to rescind regulations on coal fired power plant emissions are being implemented. America’s participation in the Paris Climate Agreement is in jeopardy, threatening a leadership role that will be filled by other nations. Why the disconnect?  More importantly, what can we do?

President Trump campaigned on promises of reducing government regulations on the coal and oil industries that hinder profits and restrict job growth.  Economists however, question these “job saving” proposals.  Meanwhile clean energy jobs have been experiencing explosive growth.

A 2017 US Department of Energy report shows solar jobs growing at a rate of 25 percent and wind employment at 32 percent, a remarkable accomplishment which must continue. America is experiencing a much-needed energy transition, providing robust employment opportunities.

The vibrant yellow-orange color of a sunset is a signature of air pollution, according to a report in 'Scientific American.' Credit: Jeff Joslin

The vibrant yellow-orange color of a sunset is a signature of air pollution, according to a report in ‘Scientific American.’ Credit: Jeff Joslin

Here at home, University of Georgia climatologists point to increasing risks: To our health, farmers, and coastline. Smog and wildfire smoke increasingly puts the elderly, children and those with respiratory problems in jeopardy. Extreme heat and drought have destroyed crops, shifting traditional crop regions while stressing and killing livestock. Some north Georgia farmers lost their entire crops in 2016. On the coast, the continual flooding of the road to Tybee Island is a visual indicator of the catastrophic destruction sea level rise will eventually wreak on Georgia’s coastal communities. Storm damage exacerbates destruction of our fragile coast.

Many of us, seeing even more harmful impacts world-wide, are truly distraught.  The recent Science March and last weekend’s People’s Climate March expressed this broad frustration. Americans have often “taken to the streets” to express anger over inaction and injustice. But marches haven’t spurred the politically needed solutions that are essential to protect us from the human induced harms bearing down on us. Why? When asked what would prevent the adoption of putting a price on greenhouse gases, a Georgia congressional aid admitted that his greatest concern was the activation of special interest groups in opposition to both the legislation and the future employment of the congressman.

There is reason for hope.

Georvia voters and their elected congressmen are starkly divided over proposals to regulate carbon. Special: Jeff Joslin

Georvia voters and their elected congressmen are starkly divided over proposals to regulate carbon. Special: Jeff Joslin

Market based proposals to price air pollutants are seeing growing support. The Climate Leadership Council, a highly-respected group of former Reagan cabinet members (George Shultz, Jim Baker and Henry Paulson) stepped forward with a sound plan. “The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends” consists of 4-pillars. The proposal calls for a gradually increasing tax on carbon emissions, border adjustments provisions (preventing competition from non-taxed imports), regulatory rollbacks and a carbon dividend for all Americans. This plan would put a price on the harmful impact of fossil fuels pollutants which have never been fairly priced into the market.  Also, a carbon dividend to every household would ease rising prices and stimulate the economy.

A similar plan has been proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). CCL’s thousands of volunteers have been speaking directly to Congressional members over its 10-year history. Their “Carbon Fee and Dividend” (CFD) bill would dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 52 percent over 20 years. Removal of associated air pollutants would save 227,000 American lives. Lower income Americans are protected from price increases. They typically have small carbon footprints, making the dividend a modest income for some. This stimulative effect grows jobs and the economy.

voters on carbon

Nearly three out of four Georgia voters think carbon should be regulated. Special: Jeff Joslin

CCL members are creating political will to implement CFD. Members focus on developing long term relationships with members of Congress and their staff. Building trust and understanding for this conservatively approached strategy is essential. Political will is also grown through public engagement such as letters to the editor of newspapers, speaking and tabling at public events.

CCL’s efforts have fostered the growth of the House of Representatives Climate Solutions Caucus. The 38 members are truly bipartisan, joining in pairs, one Republican and one Democrat at a time. Their stated goal is to “explore policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.”

What about Georgia politicians?  Not one of our Congressmen is a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus. Sadly, the Georgia delegation’s climate change support too often follows ideological lines. We can change that.

As scientists increasingly worry that we are approaching serious tipping points in the Earth’s systems, it is more important than ever that all of us speak up. Politicians respond to vigorous, sustained pleas from the majority. Have you ever contacted your congressional Representative and told him or her you want them to support a fee on carbon?  The question we must ask is, if the majority of Georgians support regulating carbon, why isn’t it priced or regulated?

An important election is underway right now in Georgia’s 6th District to replace Tom Price.  This is an ideal opportunity to query the climate stance of both candidates. Every candidate forum should address this issue. You don’t have to live in the district to raise questions about the changing climate.

Georgia voters can lead. Let’s step forward, ensuring climate gets attention commensurate with the steep risks we face. We can set the stage for the 2018 midterm elections. Otherwise, unaddressed burdens we will be placed on future generations.

7 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    Here’s a current piece of news from Belgium (in the EU). I would like the author’s comment on it.

    To avoid the high price of electricity, a greenhouse installed two natural gas-fired generator sets to make electricity, recovers the waste heat from the engines and exhaust to heat the greenhouse, and discharges the CO2-rich engine exhaust into the greenhouse to enhance the plant growth. They are using fossil fuel, making CO2, and using the CO2 to make the plants grow faster. So what is wrong with making CO2 and using it? Higher CO2 levels will enhance plant growth and reduce the amount of farmland required.

    The reason governments want a carbon tax is then they can tax everything, since virtually everything has carbon in it. Government policy is to subsidize what they want that the public doesn’t, and tax what the public wants.Report

    Reply
    • Jeff Joslin says:

      Mr. Broch, Thank you for the question. While it’s true that plants use CO2 to grow, there are scientific studies showing that many plants do not grow better at added levels of CO2. (References at: https://skepticalscience.com/co2-plant-food.htm) Too much of a good thing, medicine, food, water, etc. often leads to reduced benefits. This is also true of CO2 and plants.

      The two proposals discussed in my column both call for a distribution back to all Americans of the fees collected on carbon producing products. This serves 2 main goals. There is no growth in government since the money is returned. Also, this refund serves as an economic stimulus to grow the economy and jobs. Market forces still permit fossil fuel use but the pollution and social costs associated with them are no longer given a free pass. This levels the playing field for market forces to permit other energy sources to compete for public use. People would be free to use whatever source of energy they prefer. Alternatives, with are swiftly becoming cheaper and cleaner are becoming more and more popular with Americans.Report

      Reply
  2. Andrew Grimmke says:

    Mr. Broch, there are multiple schemes for carbon sequestration of fossil fuel exhaust which have been proposed or are presently in use. The issue with carbon sequestration of any sort, whether it a chemical sequestration such as a carbonate precipitation or biological sequestration such as the greenhouse design you discuss, is that the carbon must be bound in a way that takes the carbon out of circulation forever. For example, if I am using the carbon dioxide to stimulate growth of trees that I then burn as firewood, I have only delayed the release of the carbon for a few years. If I use CO2 to grow vegetables that people eat, the release of CO2 is only delayed until the people digest the vegetables and exhale that carbon.Report

    Reply
  3. atlgator says:

    Two things: the radon for the carbon tax is to make our more expensive and less attractive.
    Two: natural gas is more efficient and less expensive, UNTIL you consider the damage frac-ing fires to three earth ands water supplies AND A LOT of gas leaks and escapes into the atmosphere during extraction and transportation. It doesn’t make a mess like oil spills do, but it’s a greenhouse gas.
    The goal of a carbon tax is to reduce the use of the taxed commodity. Tell your congressperson to support the carbon tax.Report

    Reply
  4. David Kyler says:

    Kudos for promoting federal action to reduce emission of greenhouse gases.

    Few understand that sea-level is rising at an accelerating rate, which will cause cataclysmic damage in our lifetimes unless timely policy reforms are made.

    As director of the non-profit group, Center for a Sustainable Coast, I am deeply concerned about the cynical manipulation of science, exploited unfairly to win vacuous victories for the fossil fuel industry that are politically convenient and dangerously deceptive.

    Most disturbing in that regard has been the conspicuous silence and misinformation that neutralizes the preponderance of scientific documentation verifying human-caused climate change. For three decades, scientific evidence has been accumulating, clearly indicating that dangerous amounts of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere are causing our climate to increasingly overheat.

    Alarming, equally well-documented consequences of climate-change have been reported based on compelling scientific evidence. Sea-level rise, rapidly expanding wildfire damage, destruction of marine food supplies, and extreme weather conditions, including both drought and flooding, are all confirmed by scientific research of global systems. According to science-based trends, these impacts will worsen as GHGs continue accumulating.

    The challenge remains that the majority of voters are concerned about climate change, yet powerful influences of fossil-fuel interests on politicians – state and federal – are subverting needed action. The only hope for timely reform is through public awareness and a sustained, compelling campaign as outlined in this article.Report

    Reply

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