We are just a couple months into the new administration, and Democratic leaders already are addressing the need for climate action. President Biden has used executive orders, the Senate is holding hearings, and the House leadership has pledged to make this topic a priority.
And even though they are now in a slight minority, Republican leaders also know their constituents are at risk of impacts ranging from rising sea levels, higher temperatures and stronger storms. In fact, a recent report from the Brookings Institution found that “red” states like Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are most likely to face the worst impacts through the end of the century.
In particular, young Republican voters are eager for conservative representation in the national climate discussion that has been dominated by progressives. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center showed Republicans aged 18-39 are more concerned about climate than their elders, they understand that human activity is the cause, and they want the government to do more to reduce the impacts of climate change. Without a doubt, this is the year Congress must come together and act on climate!
One of the most effective measures available to Congress is known as carbon pricing, an economic tool that will quickly slash our emissions, save lives, create jobs and benefit American business. One such proposal, Carbon Fee & Dividend, has been broadly endorsed by scientists (National Academies), health organizations (American Medical Association), economists (28 Nobel Laureates), and businesses (US Chamber of Commerce). We’ve come so far on the business front of late, that last week the American Petroleum Institute finally endorsed carbon pricing. While this seemed to be the final hurdle to clear the way towards bipartisan climate action, it still may not be so easy.
As Republicans and big oil are moving towards putting a price on carbon pollution, some of the more progressive Democrats have moved away from this solution in favor of more aggressive “green new deal” policies that tie global warming to other systemic issues such as income inequality, public health and racial justice.
I can’t pretend to know all the answers. In a lot of ways I’m a simple person who has found a worthy cause to fight for, and I’m doing the best I can. I absolutely want to see racial, economic and health problems resolved, and I do have my thoughts on how, but I just don’t know enough about every issue. But what I do know is that we are facing a climate emergency, and we have an effective solution at our doorstep!
Carbon Fee & Dividend is explicitly designed to not grow government; the dividends payments will allow 85% of Americans to break even or come out ahead despite the higher costs for fossil fuels; a balanced playing field in the energy sector will lead to nearly 3 million jobs created within the first 20 years of implementation; and perhaps most striking, its emissions cuts could save over 4 million lives over the next 50 years by replacing pollution with cleaner air. In fact, Dr. Robert Heath of our very own Hattiesburg Clinic has endorsed Carbon Fee & Dividend as a legitimate life saving measure. There is so much common ground in this proposal, and I wish Republicans and Democrats would put aside their differences for a short time and get this done!
With scientists, public health professionals, economists, businesses and even the oil industry itself supporting carbon pricing, Congress needs to listen. The weight of all those endorsements defies partisanship! Carbon pricing will effectively reduce pollution and set America back on track as a global leader in health and prosperity.
Chris Werle is a State Coordinator for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org