A climate solution that cuts carbon and gives money to people
By Guest Columnist STEVE VALK, an Atlanta resident who serves as communications coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby
At long last, it appears the climate crisis will finally be addressed with the urgency it demands. In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden said, “A cry for survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now.”
It’s certainly clear in Georgia, where record heat threatens more lives, rising sea levels encroach on coastal communities, destructive hurricanes take an economic toll, and rainfall patterns fluctuate between flooding and drought.
In the U.S., the 2020 hurricane season had so many storms we ran out of names and had to resort to the Greek alphabet. It was a season that also saw the increasing appearance of a phenomenon associated with global warming: Rapid intensification of storms that changed Category 1 hurricanes into Category 4 storms within a day or two. Out West, California experienced its worst wildfire season ever — again — that at one point turned skies an unearthly orange.
Mother Nature isn’t happy, and she’s telling us in no uncertain terms: Reduce the amount of carbon pollution we spew into the atmosphere quickly, or we’ll see much more havoc and destruction like this in the years to come.
The encouraging news is that with a new president and Congress, we have a window of opportunity to take action that puts America and other nations on a path to a livable world. Within hours of being sworn in, President Biden signed an order for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. A welcome first step, for sure, but now comes the hard part: Enacting climate solutions in a closely divided Congress.
While there is no single measure capable of reining in climate change by itself, there is one foundational policy that will lift other solutions and speed the transition to a clean economy — an ambitious price on carbon emissions.
The concept is simple and straightforward: Penalize polluters. Reward innovators who help us reduce carbon emissions.
So, just how ambitious does the carbon price need to be in order to have the desired impact on carbon emissions?
A team of economists at Columbia University takes an approach called near-term to net zero (NT2NZ), which estimates the carbon dioxide price needed in the near term to achieve net-zero emissions within a certain time frame. In order to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the target scientists agree should be met to avert climate catastrophe, the Columbia team suggests a price reaching $50 per ton of CO2 in 2025 and reaching $100 per ton by 2030.
Legislation introduced in the previous Congress — the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act — would hit those price targets by starting at $15 per ton and increasing by $10 each year. Additionally, this legislation would protect Americans from any economic impact by distributing revenue to households, a policy known as carbon fee and dividend. An economic impact study found that most households, especially low- and middle-income, would receive more money from the dividend than they would pay for increased costs associated with the carbon fee.
The bill attracted 86 cosponsors, including Rep. Hank Johnson and Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia. Lead sponsor Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) is expected to reintroduce the bill early this year.
Another feature of this legislation is that it protects American businesses by imposing a carbon border adjustment on imports from nations that don’t have an equivalent carbon price. The European Union, which has a carbon-pricing mechanism that employs cap-and-trade, plans to implement a carbon border tax in 2023, putting pressure on the U.S. to price carbon.
According to an assessment of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act released by Columbia University in 2019 — also led by Dr. Noah Kaufman — the legislation would:
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions emissions substantially — 32% to 33% by 2025 and 36% to 38% by 2030;
- Greatly reduce toxic air pollution from power plants and thereby reduce deaths and hospitalizations;
- Shift electricity generation to cleaner sources, nearly eliminating coal by 2030.
Although Democrats control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, their majorities in Congress are razor thin, which means that passing climate legislation will likely require some Republican support. A market-based approach like carbon fee and dividend stands the best chance stands of attracting that support. In a dramatic shift in policy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which for years lobbied against climate legislation, recently announced that it would support market-based mechanisms to address climate change.
Off of Capitol Hill, bipartisan support for a carbon-fee-and-dividend policy has been steadily growing. The Climate Leadership Council, headed by former Republican Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and the late George P. Shultz, whose death Feb. 6 was announced Sunday, gathered signatures from more than 3,500 economists in support of a carbon dividends plan. Janet Yellen, President Biden’s Secretary of the Treasury, is among the bipartisan supporters of this policy, and she’s made it clear that Biden supports carbon pricing.
As I mentioned, other policies will be needed in addition to a price on carbon. For example, electrifying America’s transportation fleet will also require investments in charging stations and improved fuel efficiency standards. In America’s efforts to drastically reduce carbon pollution, however, pricing carbon remains the most essential policy.
With 60 votes needed to stop a filibuster, getting any legislation through the Senate will be difficult. However, a process known as budget reconciliation requires only a simple majority, and carbon pricing is one of the policies that could be included in that process because it deals with taxing and spending.
More than a decade ago, when the reality of climate change was still being debated, Congress came up short with enacting a price on carbon when a House-passed cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate. But today the impact of climate change is no longer a hypothetical in some far-off future. It is happening here and now, and the only debate is how we’re going to stop it. Instead of inside-the-beltway gamesmanship that eventually doomed previous efforts, support for carbon fee and dividend is coming from the grassroots level. Tens of thousands of constituents are lobbying their members of Congress and generating support in their communities by publishing letters to the editor, getting endorsements from community leaders, and passing municipal resolutions urging Congress to enact this legislation.
Our nation cannot afford to let the current window of opportunity on climate change close without enacting big solutions. Carbon fee and dividend is one of those big solutions that stands a chance of passage because, it appeals to people across the political spectrum. It will reduce emissions while giving money to people at a time when our nation is struggling economically.
That sounds like a win-win for America.
Well stated. As the US Chamber of Commerce has said about climate change, “inaction is not an option”. Among the various steps that could be taken, the carbon fee and dividend program described in this article would be the best. To reiterate: it will effectively reduce carbon emissions and curb climate change; it will put money in the hands of US households each month; it will be revenue neutral, and not increase the size of government; it will harness the magic of the free market; and it will be bipartisan. Thanks for writing.Report
Steve, I was personally responsible(forresearched and authored) f the US Department of Energy, Office of Fossil Energy, National Energy Technology Centers Carbon Dioxide Sequestration, Mitigation and Disposal Strategy,, personally created and developed The Utility Of The Future, and also personally responsible for Climate Adaption Issues Analsysi
with respect to all electric power generation (which means I also did all trade offs between stationary and mobile source of pollution (green house gases, particulate, thermal warming, etc0. I was also responsible for Astronaut Health Care for Interplanetary Missions with Dual Applications on Earth (making me the expert on bioelectromagnetics, radiation, the interplay between neural biology and “energy medicine’ for all living creatures: humans, animals, birds, fish and of course — trees (actually the plant life in all seven of earth’s biomes). I lived in both Pittsburgh and Tucson and returned to my home town in MIchigan -as well as Ann Arbor, when my own terminally ill mother and grandparents were dying . At this point in time it became “crystal clear” that my alma mater (umich.edu) intended to end my life rapidly -that is a story in an of itself, involving the use and cover up of counterfeit mesh “no consent” which makes me the expert on all environmental toxins (inhaled absorbed, adsorbed, ingested, injected, implanted, injected). I tell you this, because strategies are a dime a dozen and I presented the only viable solutions;
completed in 1995. For Climate CHANGE, our now nominee for Secretary of Energy, helped orchestrate a break into my home — home invasion” to stop all this work. So your precept not win/win – is actually a veiled lose/lose. You want to get your story right. Your story is wrong. I informed Greta Thunberg it was not true that the politicians did nothing, they tried to kill me. Perhaps you ought to read my fathers headstone: it says “He loved nature.” He was essentially killed using the same tactics used on me, (in 1974). I have been at this since fourth grade, (1964). Get your story right. Those who can do, those who can’t play politics. I didn’t just develop these strategies – I detailed the “how to and the engineering.” Your payhbafck for ignoring me, Is 24 people are dead today in Texas, 12 chipances fore to death – and that is just today (from unplanned power outages); my work prevented all of the. Perhaps I am wasting my time speaking to you. Today I am I the high desert, UVx is always over 11 in the summer.r That is the South Atlantic Anomallly letting radiation in from a shift in the earth’s core which is because of the excessive mining, drilling fracking, etc (look up Chilie Mning Disaster). Our wildlife ingests plastic particulate – no food supply — mass instinction on the way (the plastics destroy their endocrine system). You can pay me to write the story, but observing lairs proposing net zero 38 years after I completed the solution is duping your readers. Do you understandd, your life depends on it! BTW, I trained under Willard F Rockwell, Jr when “they” didn’t like my commercialization of space transportation systems; they blew up pChallenger. That is the tactics they have used on me. Including Jennifer Granholm, et al.Report
You want to get your story right. Your story is wrong. You won’t make money from carbon off-sets trading. Dirty air blows away, you’ll spend your own money attempting to create your personal countermeasure for respiratory failure, muscle weakness, digestive failure, neural toxic-symptoms like Parkinson – most of this looks like COVID.
I informed Greta Thunberg it was not true that the politicians did nothing, they tried to kill me. Perhaps you ought to read my father’s headstone: it says “He loved nature.” He was essentially killed using the same tactics used on me, (in 1974). Following his lead, I have been at this “ save a life save a world – my world”. since the fourth grade (1964). I looked exactly like Greta – -green eyes to boot.
Get your story right. Those who can do, those who can’t play politics. I didn’t just develop the above strategies – I detailed the “how to and the engineering and the implementation.” As I recall, Senator Bryd from West VA wanted to spend money washing coal (clean coal) and pour the runoff into water tables). Then my staff was killed in USAir 427. That is for starters how the royal “they” stop saving the planet.
Your payback for ignoring me, today is that 24 people are dead, toda, in Texas, 12 chipanzees froze to death – and that is just today -because unplanned power outages did not provide them a basic habitable cage. Cage’s are evil. So are the people who experimented on them. My work prevented all of this.
Perhaps I am wasting my time speaking to you. Today I am I the High Desert, The UVx index is always over 11 in the summer. Furnace Creek was 134 degrees F last summer. Why is the UVx so high? That is the South Atlantic Anomally letting radiation in from a shift in the earth’s core, caused by excessive mining, drilling fracking, etc (look up Chilie Mning Disaster) which led to the climb in the geomagnetic field.
Our wildlife ingests plastic particulate – no healthy food supply — mass extinction is inevitable because the plastic particulate destroys their endocrine system. It’s not just in human placenta – but I have never been a proponent of man’s dominion over the land, seas, and skies. I belieeve nature live in your eye, not die in your hand.
The butterfly effect (local actions have non local effects) is in full force.
You can pay me to write the story, but observing liars proposing net zero, thirty eight years after I completed the solution is duping your readers. This is not an existential cerise where you rely on politicians telling you what too do and thing. If it is to be, it is put to me and you. Why are you letting politicians infantilize your capacity to make a sound judgement. Do you understandd, your life depends on it!
BTW, I trained under Willard F Rockwell, Jr when “they” didn’t like my commercialization of space transportation system,; they blew up Challenger. Today Elon Musck is benefiting from the results I created. The former POTUS (B.O.) did nothing – except remove my name from my national merit scholarship award (#1 in the USA 19745) – no affirmative action required to be #1. I still am. These are the tactics they have used on me. Including Jennifer Granholm, et al. Washtenaw County sheriff’s report 11/18.06. How is it there in Atlanta? I liked the 485 by pass because the inner city air was hard on me. This is for all your readers. Pass it on.Report