Our Hot Mess: The best solution

In the past few weeks, we have covered major news when it comes to the fossil fuel industries: the proposed Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, the rejection of the Keystone XL, the global economic standpoint on natural gas, local movements against the industries, youth movements against the industries. 

Now’s the time to introduce the best solution to climate change we have so far. Intriguing, no?

All of us have heard the term “greenhouse gases” thrown around in climate dialogue, but what do they really do? These sly gases, namely carbon dioxide, essentially trap heat energy. The more gases, the higher the atmospheric temperature, the smaller the iconic iceberg beneath the polar bear. All around, the effects of increased greenhouse gas concentration are negative. And I could bring up a bunch of scientific arguments and facts in hope that you would care or even listen, but there are only so many “our oceans are dying” and “air is becoming unbreathable” statements the general population can absorb. Simply understand this: changes in our climate that should take thousands of years are happening in decades, and we must - for the safety, stability, and welfare of the younger generations - reduce carbon emissions. With that, I give you the best solution to climate change we have so far:

A revenue-neutral, carbon fee and dividend (CFD).

For purposes of explanation, I will use the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s proposal. The fee is based on the amount of carbon in fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal. These fuels, when burned, emit the potent carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This fee is based on tons of carbon dioxide released at the earliest ports of entry into the economy - wells, mines, ports. The fee would begin at $15 per ton of carbon dioxide and increase by $10 a year, a relatively conservative ideal.

This is not a tax. 

A tax has a very unfavorable connotation of taking from the people and giving to the government. This fee would be revenue-neutral and lacking a policy that grows in the government. And the dividend part means the money collected would be rebated to American households. 

Yes, the fee on carbon at the source would trickle down the economy to consumers. Products with larger travel distances and carbon dioxide emissions would be more expensive; we aren’t trying to disguise that. But based on an extensive study referred to as the REMI study, ⅔ of households would earn as much or more than they pay in increased costs because of varied carbon usage. 

There is a positive correlation between the rich and the carbon consumption, so the upper classes will have to pay more to maintain the same lifestyle. As the visual below explains, these increased costs will stimulate clean technology, leading to lowered carbon dioxide emissions.

from Citizens’ Climate Lobby website - Carbon Fee and Dividend Cartoon Strips

Other major findings of the REMI study include that in 20 years, 2.8 million jobs would be added to the economy due to the economic stimulus of recycling carbon fee revenue back to households. The study also predicts that in those 20 years, 230,000 premature deaths would be avoided due to improved air quality.

Currently, climate action is not happening because of the overwhelming lack of drive economically. That makes sense. Fossil fuels are cheaper than clean alternatives. But this CFD would radically change that, making climate change a more realistic battle to conquer. Frankly, there is no economic argument against the CFD. It stimulates jobs, grows the economy, makes Americans wealthier, and makes lives around the world healthier. It is time we act on that logic.

--Elke Arnesen, LSNews.org Columnist

Edited: BP

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