Why you should care about market- based solutions to climate change

Kristen CARLSON

In 1970, the first Earth Day was organized. Twenty million people gathered across the U.S. to discuss ways to protect our environment.

This Earth Day, the fight for our planet still marches on against one of the biggest adversaries we have ever faced: climate change.

With our executive branch of government rolling back regulations on important environmental issues, it is more important than ever that we take this fight seriously. But, is another regulation the way to go? What other options have we?

What about a market based solution?

Carbon Fee and Dividend is a proposal from Citizens’ Climate Lobby placing a fee on greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels with net revenues going back to American households.

Fuels would have a fee of $15 per ton of carbon emissions, charged at the mine, well, or port of entry. Each year this fee would increase by $10.

Increasing fossil fuel prices would send signals into the market, spurring innovation and investment in cleaner, renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. To shield households from resulting higher fossil fuel energy costs, the collected fee would be evenly distributed back to the people in the form of a monthly dividend check.

This dividend would even be more than the increase in energy costs for many families, meaning you could possibly come out earning more money with a Carbon Fee and Dividend policy in place.

According to a Regional Economics Model, Inc. study released in 2014, in just the first 20 years of implementation, Carbon Fee and Dividend would result in an additional 2.8 million jobs. More specifically, the REMI study predicts our region (Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio) would see large gains in retail, construction, ambulatory services, and food and beverage service by 2025.

Carbon emissions were also predicted to be reduced to 50 percent below 1990 levels, along with the prevention of 230,000 premature deaths from air pollutants.

In May 2014, a separate study released by the Congressional Budget Office found that a $20 per ton carbon fee would result in an 8 percent reduction in national carbon emissions.

Since the U.S. is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, cutting or not cutting our emissions would have large impacts on the future of our planet’s climate.

Crossing a 2-degree celsius temperature increase has consequences across the world, in the form of higher sea levels, food and freshwater shortages, longer droughts, and more intense storms, that we are not prepared to handle.

Closer to home, a 2014 study prepared for The Superior Work Group of the Lake Superior Lakewide Action and Management Plan leads us to expect warmer surface water temperatures, decreasing ice coverage, and reduced populations of cold water fish in Lake Superior.

Higher wind speeds, increased winter and decreased summer precipitation, and more intense storms, such as witnessed recently in Republic and Ishpeming, can also be expected.

Can our Congress rise to the occasion to pass a Carbon Fee and Dividend? I am optimistic they can. Democrats and Republicans are already working together on climate solutions in the growing Climate Solutions Caucus. Also, a similar proposal was introduced by the Republicans of the Climate Leadership Council in February.

A market based carbon fee won’t grow the government with new regulations. Returning the fee to people as a dividend protects most families from rising energy costs while the economy shifts to cleaner energy sources, and the dividend acts as an economic stimulus creating new jobs.

Paired with the expected reductions in carbon emissions, it’s a win for our environment, our economy, our government, and our future. We need to act on climate change now, and we need to do it with a solution that will hold. Carbon Fee and Dividend is that solution. Let us use our voices are urge our Congress to enact Carbon Fee and Dividend.

Editor’s note: Kristen Carlson is the group leader for the Marquette chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. They can be reached via email at marquette@citizensclimatelobby.org.