Saturday, December 3, 2016

Guest post: How conservatives can address Climate Change

Above: wildfire in Chattanooga, TN, one of several which ravaged the Volunteer State
this week after the longest drought ever recorded in Tennessee.
The author, Frances Mendenhall, of Omaha, is a longtime Nebraska citizen activist and was a leader in opposing the siting of a nuclear waste dump in Morrill County, Nebraska, in the 1980s. Gov. Ben Nelson ultimately scuttled that plan, advanced by both Gov. Bob Kerrey and Gov. Kay Orr. Mendenhall is a member of Citizens' Climate Lobby. She emailed AKSARBENT the following piece today (in rich text format (.rtf) instead of .txt format. Ugh! Grr...)
George Shultz, Secretary of State under Reagan, offered President-elect Trump advice including an admonition to take climate change seriously. (OWH 11/20, p. 7B "Shultz to Trump: Remember your friends").
     "People who say the climate isn't changing are in the process of getting mugged by reality," said Shultz, referring to Trump's campaign claim that global warming is a hoax, promoted by the Chinese.  Shultz supports a revenue neutral carbon tax.
     President-elect Trump appears to have softened his campaign position on climate change, most recently promising to have an "open mind" about it (Trump begins backing off campaign vows on Clinton, Climate, Omaha World Herald 11/23).
     In 2009, Trump signed a public letter calling for cuts in America's greenhouse gas emissions, although most of his statements and tweets have not favored carbon mitigation.
     Military leaders are not waiting to get mugged by reality. Chuck Hagel and others now refer to climate change as a threat multiplier, and are incorporating plans for the increased extreme weather events, floods, droughts, and rising sea level.
     Other conservatives  are increasingly open to climate measures.
     Carlos Curbelo, a Republican congressman from the tip of Florida, formed the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus  last March. Curbello acted in response to the presence of sea water in the streets of his Miami. The caucus now has 20 members, 10 of whom are Republicans.
     The Gibson Resolution, introduced by Republican Chris Gibson, which acknowledged the need to address the human causes of climate change, was signed by 15 Republican members of Congress.
     Nonetheless, as reports from the climate conferences indicate, the U.S. is behind most of the rest of the world in reducing carbon emissions.
     Jerry Taylor, founder of the Libertarian Niskanen Center, believes that opposition of many to taking action on climate change is based on the belief that any action to reduce emissions will usher in a kind or regulatory nightmare that would be worse than any threat posed by climate change.  Taylor supports a revenue neutral carbon tax to reduce carbon emissions.
     My organization, Citizens Climate Lobby, has as its main goal, the passage of such legislation.We call it  Carbon Fee and Dividend. Citizens Climate Lobby has identified enough bipartisan support for this measure that they have set their goal to get the bill introduced and passed in 2017. No one imagines that it will be easy. Nonetheless, since the election, interest and support for the organization has spiked, with traffic to our website increasing eight fold, and participation in local events more than doubling.
     Here is how the measure works.
     A small but steadily increasing fee is placed on fossil fuels, i.e., coal, gas, and oil. All of the money collected is returned to American households.
     The result of a carbon fee will be a slow rise in the price of carbon based fuels. As a cigarette tax has reduced smoking, a price on carbon based fuels will reduce their use.
     Investors, utilities, and energy producers will have a predictable market signal that will allow them to make changes and increase profits. Some large companies, inclulding Exxon Mobil, have even begun to incorporate carbon pricing in their long-term plans.
     This solution bypasses regulations, subsidies, and big government.
     The winners and losers will be picked only by market forces.
     Economic modeling shows that It will stimulate the economy and create 2.8 million jobs in 20 years.
     It will incentivize needed technological progress, such as battery development, improved photovoltaics, biofuels to power aviation.
     Most households will bring in more income from the dividend than they have to pay out in additional direct and indirect costs of fuel.
     The air will be cleaner and health expenditures will drop. Our energy sources will be within our borders, and we will not risk going to war to protect them. Those who dream of getting off the grid, will be able to do it. We will move into a future independent of all the risks of mining, transporting, and storing fossil fuels.
     George Shultz regards cutting carbon emissions as a wise insurance policy. Even for those who question whether human activity is causing climate change, Carbon Fee and Dividend, with all its benefits, is, as Trump himself might say, a really good deal.

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