Our body politic is sick with partisanship and no–compromise positions. We desperately need projects to bring us together.
Climate change could be such a project, contrary to common belief in a liberal–conservative split. Large majorities Americans of all political persuasions support action on climate change.
Even here in our 22nd Congressional District, 66 percent think global warming is happening, only 16 percent think it isn’t (vs. 70 percent and 14 percent nationally). In our district 64–85 percent support renewable energy research, regulating CO2 as a pollutant, setting limits on CO2 from coal plants, putting a carbon tax on fossil fuels, requiring electricity goals from renewables, and tax rebates for electric vehicles and solar panels.
Only 12–21 percent oppose doing more to address global warming at all levels of society from individuals and local governments to corporations and Congress. A large majority, 69 percent, think economic growth is compatible with environmental protection.
The root of the myth of disagreement is that locally only 33 percent discuss global warming even occasionally (36 percent nationally) and only 22 percent hear about global warming in the media weekly. We’re afraid of talking, yet we must start talking to realize how much we agree. Progress in this area would provide practice for more difficult ones like race.
Carbon Fee & Dividends (CF&D)
In point of fact, there is a mix of policies almost everyone could get behind:
1. Impose a carbon pollution fee on fossil fuels, increase it $5–10/ton of CO2 every year or two.
2. Rebate all fees to citizens as equal, tax-free, quarterly dividend payments.
3. Set border carbon adjustments to avoid disadvantaging American companies and discourage outsourcing of jobs and pollution.
4. Phase out government regulations such as mileage standards, the Clean Power Plan, etc.
5. Free energy markets by eliminating subsidies for both fossil fuels and renewables.
Cliché “liberals” and “conservatives” would benefit
For liberals, a carbon fee cuts carbon emissions, reducing global warming. For conservatives it’s a market–based approach and reduces government.
Dividends: Liberals would see poor and middle class benefit because they would spend less in increased prices than they would get in dividends. Conservatives would see a revenue–neutral plan, not a government–growing tax.
Border Adjustments: For liberals the plan would reduce export of pollution and push other nations to institute carbon prices. For conservatives the plan would preserve American jobs, industry and American global leadership.
Regulations: Everyone likes streamlining government.
Subsidies: Liberals might see an opportunity to use funds to retrain displaced workers &/or stimulate local industries in blighted communities. Conservatives might want to use them to balance the budget or pay down debt. Compromising on a mix would give politicians of all sides wins to take to voters.
Everyone would benefit
Increased fuel prices would stimulate businesses that manufacture, install and maintain renewable energy systems and those that install energy efficient retrofits of equipment and buildings. More predictable energy prices reduce business and homeowner uncertainty. There would be increased incentive to research innovative energy systems and conservation. States like New York with strict regulations could drop them; businesses wouldn’t need to meet different standards. Fossil fuel companies would get the message and diversity by redirecting investment from exploration to renewables. We can create more jobs and grow a stronger economy by building new, better industries and infrastructure than by propping up the old.
Because renewable energy systems aren’t large plants, but dispersed, income from leasing land is already benefiting farmers and rural communities. Our grid will be more stable and resilient. In Puerto Rico, Texas and the Carolinas wind and solar installations weathered hurricanes well.
Health would improve and healthcare costs would decrease because of reduced fossil fuel emissions of fine particles and toxic chemicals that invade our bodies to cause cancer, cardiovascular, respiratory and other diseases. Reduced petroleum use, would reduce dependence on other countries, thus need to expend blood and treasure in foreign interventions. Reduced mining and drilling reduces destruction of landscapes, water supplies, wildlife habitat and communities.
Finally, passing CF&D would show bipartisanship & compromise can work to produce win–win solutions for everyone. Ask candidates this month if they could support CF&D and make answers a factor in who you vote for.
Even if you don’t “believe” in global warming, I hope you can see we’d all benefit from CF&D. And show us that we can work together again — if only we begin to really converse.
Frank Price is a retired Ph.D. ecologist with broad backgrounds in biology and in the history and philosophy of science. He has taught at Hamilton and Utica colleges and worked in information technology. He encourages questions and feedback; write firstname.lastname@example.org.