Paris climate talks could set stage for real solutionsAn iceberg collapses under the Greenlandic sun in July, the hottest month in recorded history. The resulting explosion of water and ice marks a milestone in the discussion about climate change. Credit: Eric Lew
By Guest Columnist JEFF JOSLIN, an airline captain who chairs the North Atlanta Citizens’ Climate Lobby
As the Paris climate talks begin this week (known as the “Conference of Parties” or COP 21) I am inspired and hopeful remembering the open hearted responses to the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month. While terrorists’ bullets flew, Parisians were throwing open their doors and windows to the scared and wounded. The next day, the grief-stricken French comforted one another at memorials and services that sprang up around the City of Light.
The beauty of humanity is that we naturally respond to tragedy and life threatening danger with courage, love and disregard for ethnicity or political persuasion. It is in our DNA and practiced widely in our faith and civic practices. My hope is that the COP21 Negotiators and the 7 billion people they represent can open their hearts and minds in this same spirit as humanity strives for a collaborative agreement on climate change.
The world knows that 97 percent of climate scientists are convinced, based upon the evidence, that human-caused global warming is happening. We are swiftly approaching a tipping point that will push temperatures beyond a point that will unleash devastating ocean flooding, worsening storms and agricultural changes that threaten the stability of civilian populations. Locally, climatologists at the University of Georgia have identified coastal Georgia and metro Atlanta as vulnerable to adverse climate change impacts.
Scientists, military leaders and economists are largely in agreement over the danger to world stability. At present levels our emissions are more than double scientifically determined, safe levels. What’s lacking is a world-wide agreement that embodies that spirit we witness in the Parisians, the sincerity that cuts through differences and allows us to set political differences aside in a spirit of unselfish collaboration.
There are many reasons to be hopeful. The 5 largest emitters of greenhouse gases (China, United States, European Union, India and Russia) have all submitted plans to make drastic reductions in greenhouse gases. Renewable energy costs have declined dramatically and are becoming cost-competitive with polluting fossil fuel energy. Markets are responding to this crisis with cleaner and more sustainable manufacturing processes, better batteries, and other technological innovations that will continue to multiply as they become cost competitive.
The United States, the second largest emitter of climate-warming gases, can be a global leader on climate action. Despite making notable strides, our politicians are not sufficiently leading this process. The opportunity for bi-partisan efforts to put a price on the carbon emissions is greatly needed and would be a game changer solution both here and abroad.
There is a conservatively styled approach that holds great promise. This plan is called Carbon Fee and Dividend. It is sometimes referred to as the “Shultz Insurance Policy”, named after Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State who proposed an “insurance plan,” to address destruction of the ozone layer. Reagan agreed that insurance to back scientific findings was good policy.
By putting a steadily rising price on carbon pollutants and returning the fees monthly to Americans we can drastically reduce emissions while growing a sustainable economy that safely supports future generations. Border incentives built into the plan will protect American businesses and jobs while providing strong encouragement and leadership for other countries to employ this ground breaking strategy. Non-partisan Citizens’ Climate Lobby supports this plan as it is one of the swiftest ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while growing jobs and the economy.
Climate change is real, it’s here and we can do something about it. Our descendants will look back on how we confront this challenge as the turning point in humanity’s evolution to a global view, one that values all lives and reaches for higher goals that truly benefit all of human kind. Let’s throw open our doors and windows, look at one another with love and say, “let’s work together on this – for the good of all.”