The best policy humans can adopt at the national level is a revenue-neutral carbon fee. Here are several letters-to-the-editor I’ve written advocating this. I’ve also included my first letter, written on the Tuesday night that President Obama was re-elected and published in the New York Times on Thursday, urging the president to create a legacy based on climate action. I feel particularly proud of this letter, and I sometimes wonder if the president saw it!
If you would like to take action at the national level, a good first step would be to join or start your local chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby. CCL is an international group of regular people advocating for revenue-neutral carbon fees. Then start writing! A letter to the editor only takes about half an hour to write.
This kind of letter writing might inspire you to write from platforms with even more impact. Or you may have other talents that you can bring to bear at the national level. We’re all different, and global warming certainly needs to be addressed from every angle.
New York Times, 10/01/2015
Re “Progress Seen on Warming, With a Caveat,” (front page, Sept. 28):
With the world’s countries heading kicking and screaming into a climate meeting in Paris in December, and China announcing a woefully complex cap-and-trade scheme, we should be talking about carbon fees, which are as painless as they are effective.
A national carbon fee, if returned in its entirety as an equal dividend to consumers, would actually bring economic benefits. With one fair, transparent and comprehensive market correction, you reduce emissions, drive the transition to renewables, create jobs and stimulate consumer spending.
Even Big Oil has begun lobbying for a carbon fee. These companies reason that the world will soon do something about global warming, and out of the available options only a carbon fee provides a predictable framework for their future development (presumably into green energy). The majority of Americans and economists also support a carbon fee.
Solving global warming will not be easy. We will need to address population growth and rethink our economic systems. But the first, best step toward a solution — a simple, honest carbon fee — would be entirely painless.
New York Times, 03/10/2015
Re “California Innovation, Like Water, Has Limits,” by Eduardo Porter (Economic Scene column, April 8):
There can no longer be doubt that it’s time for real action on global warming. It’s now clear that global warming is contributing to our devastating drought in California, and that as warming accelerates, so will the drought risk. Scientists are connecting warming to other risk increases, here and abroad, including heat waves, floods, wildfires, biodiversity loss and crop failure.
How much worse must things get before Americans demand meaningful action from policy makers? And what should that action be? The first question remains intractable, but the answer to the second is obvious: We need a carbon fee, with the revenues paid to the people.
This would give polluters an incentive to stop using our atmosphere as a dump, and hasten the transition to renewables. A tariff would encourage other countries to follow us. Not a tax, it wouldn’t hurt the economy or polarize conservatives.
A fee of $15 a ton of carbon dioxide translates to an extra 15 cents a gallon of gas and a $300 check in the mail. As the first real step toward a climate solution, that’s quite a bargain.
New York Times, 09/22/2014
Re “Taking a Call for Climate Change to the Streets” (front page, Sept. 22) and “Global Rise Reported in 2013 Greenhouse Gas Emissions” (news article, Sept. 22):
The People’s Climate March was heartening, but solving the climate crisis will require significant changes at the individual, community and national levels. Despite our efforts so far, global warming continues to accelerate.
Over the last four years, I’ve reduced my carbon emissions to a tenth of their 2010 level (which was near the American average), and I’m happier than ever. The number of people I meet who have made similar reductions is growing, and to a person they also report increased happiness.
We also urgently need meaningful change at the national level. The most effective climate policy the United States could adopt is a revenue-neutral carbon fee. The fee is added to all fossil fuels at points of extraction and import, and then distributed equally to households.
Far from hurting our economy, such a policy would improve our economy by stimulating the transition to renewables and putting money in the average person’s pocket. The case of British Columbia, which adopted a revenue-neutral carbon fee in 2008, bears out this bold claim.
Los Angeles Times, 06/04/2014
Re “New EPA rule seeks to cut carbon emissions 30% by 2030” (front page, June 1):
The Obama administration’s proposed rules for power plants are a start in addressing the global warming emergency, but regulations alone aren’t enough. To address the most comprehensive threat the human race has ever faced, we need a more comprehensive approach.
A revenue-neutral carbon tax would correct the greatest market failure in history. Currently, fossil fuel producers and consumers dump emissions into the atmosphere for free, “externalizing” the massive cost of global warming.
A price per ton on emissions would correct this failure. The price would increase gradually over time, stimulating investment and jobs as industries, utilities and consumers switch to ever-more-affordable renewable energy alternatives. Yes, this would gradually raise the price at the pump, but 100% of the collected money would be returned to Americans. Those who burn less would put more money in the bank.
The sooner we get off fossil fuels, the better off we’ll be.
New York Times, 05/07/2014
Re “U.S. Climate Has Already Changed, Study Finds, Citing Heat and Floods” (front page, May 7):
America is finally waking up to the reality and the magnitude of the climate crisis. Climate-related disasters will continue to affect our communities as warming increases, and people will continue to wake up. It’s not going to just go away.
At some point, soon I hope, a revenue-neutral carbon tax will become politically possible. Revenue would be returned to taxpayers, rewarding those who emit less carbon and stimulating change throughout our economy and infrastructure.
It’s too late to stop global warming, but how bad it gets is still up to us.
Let’s leave something for our children. Let’s do what we need to do. To those who keep bringing up jobs: If we innovate a world beyond coal, oil and natural gas, our economy will benefit enormously.
If we continue chasing the nightmare of fossil fuels, we will certainly continue to decline. A revenue-neutral carbon tax is the best way to jump-start innovation.
New York Times, 11/08/2012
Re “Obama’s Night” (front page, Nov. 7):
Now that President Obama has a second term, he must make climate change his legacy.
Predictions from models tell us that we can’t wait even a few more years to address climate change, if we are to minimize warming that will decimate our agriculture with droughts, and eviscerate our economy with storms and fires. We’ve had a preview this year. That it will get worse is unavoidable; we need to prevent it from getting much, much worse.
A Green New Deal would be America’s ticket to jobs, security, economic recovery and renewing our position of global leadership. This may be the last great opportunity for the United States to avoid permanently falling behind China. Here’s hoping that Mr. Obama finally finds the courage to stand firm against the oil and coal barons and lead us, our children and future generations away from the brink of climate disaster.