Barbara Schlachter’s op ed November 20, 2014

Time to put revenue neutral fee on carbon

In the bleak mid-winter, which seems to have hit Iowa rather early on a number of fronts, I have been looking for signs of good news.

One of these is the agreement between the U.S. and China on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

China has never before agreed to stop growing their emissions but now has pledged to reach their peak emissions by 2030, with wind and solar to constitute 20 percent of that total. China and the U.S. are the largest greenhouse gas emitters, comprising 40 percent of the world’s total.

This agreement is not insignificant on its own but it is even more important as an encouragement to other nations to realize that the time for idle talk and empty pledges has come to an end. Action must be taken by all if we are to keep the temperature of the earth from rising 2 degrees over what it was before the industrial revolution.

I have come to understand that people will not admit to a problem if they do not like the solution. The human psyche is very good at denial and compartmentalization. For those who imagine cutting carbon emissions means living in the cold and dark, without a job, they need to think again. It is no longer the old either/or — jobs and the economy or combating global warming. This is very good news indeed. Here is how it can be accomplished.

By putting a revenue neutral fee on carbon at its source of extraction that would start at $10 a ton per annum and increase by $10 per year, emissions would come down by 50 percent after 20 years and put the country on track to achieve the 80 percent reduction needed by mid-century to avoid catastrophic climate change.

There are two important things to note here: one is that all money would be returned to the American people as an equal across-the-board payment for each person and that border adjustments would be made so American businesses would be protected. As carbon becomes more expensive, and solar and wind and other non-carbon sources of energy become less expensive, there would be less reliance on coal, gas and oil.

Meanwhile, economically, here are some facts from a report issued by Regional Economic Models Inc. They predict that 2.8 million jobs would be added over 20 years. People are going to have more money in their pocket with the revenue returned to them. The GDP would increase $70 billion to $85 billion from 2020 on. The monthly dividend for a family of four with two adults in 2025 would be $288.

After 10 years, our air would be cleaner and our health better, with 13,000 lives saved annually. What’s not to like? Jobs and a healthier environment, with a chance to significantly reduce the carbon emissions that are damaging our atmosphere and currently setting us on a path for severe weather — more drought, more floods, more fires, higher sea levels, greater loss of species diversification. It is important to remember that action needs to be taken before the climate effects are irreversible. We don’t have long.

The good news with a Republican Congress is that they can embrace this free-market approach that grows our economy and imposes no new taxes. The carbon fee and dividend plan is supported by some leading conservatives, including former Secretary of State George Shultz. Under President Obama, wind production has tripled and solar production has increased by ten-fold. Let’s be able to credit the Republicans for taking us the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, we are getting ready to celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving. It is one that regardless of religious or political persuasion we can celebrate together, and we do it by sitting down at a table and sharing food with family and/or friends.

China may not have an American Thanksgiving, but she shares our common ground. Our common ground is our common ground. It is our earth and it’s the only one we will ever have.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

The Rev. Dr. Barbara Schlachter is a retired Episcopal priest who is a member of the Iowa City Climate Advocates, the Citizens Climate Lobby and 100 Grannies for a Livable Future.

IOW barbara schlachter.jpg

Comments are closed.