Although substantially eliminating the carbon emissions driving global climate change is not yet close to being within our grasp, a rapidly expanding body of evidence suggests we can resolve this significant adaptive challenge. Consider the following:
1. Overwhelming scientific consensus exists in declaring human-caused global warming. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists are convinced that human-caused global warming is happening. As Robert Davies, a respected Utah State University climate scientist recently told me, "Every relevant scientific organization on the planet recognizes human-caused climate change."
2. Local and regional governments are actively engaged in climate change prevention, mitigation and environmental sustainability. Within the past month, Utah regulators, practitioners, researchers and business interests convened at three venues: The Intermountain Sustainability Conference, The Stegner Symposium on Green Infrastructure and Resilient Cities, and The Climate Variability and Health Symposium. The motivation, expertise and collaboration among these stakeholders is truly inspiring. It’s happening in spite of the politicization of climate change to which we are all accustomed. Climate change is real to our local and regional governments, and they are working to both slow its pace and to prepare for it.
3. These are record times for clean energy:
a. Renewable energy made up a majority of all new electrical generation capacity under worldwide construction in 2015.
b. Tesla announced the Model 3 electric car. Tesla is also currently constructing a five-billion-dollar battery "Gigafactory" in Nevada.
c. the end of 2016, 15 percent of Utah’s peak electrical generation capacity is forecast to come from renewable sources.
d. We are seeing exponential growth in roof-top residential solar installations.
4. At least one collection of experts led by Mark Jacobson, a scientist from Stanford University, affirms scalability of sun, wind and water energy to replace fossil fuels in our lifetimes. Their work describes scenarios for transformed energy economies in 139 countries worldwide and in all 50 states.
5. In an open letter to the United Nations, CEOs of prominent fossil fuel companies, including Shell, BP, BG Group, Eni, Statoil and Total, endorsed the idea of putting a price on carbon. Political jurisdictions representing 22 percent of current global emissions are already enacting or planning carbon pricing, including jurisdictions in China.
Championing a price on carbon is a role we citizens can play in accelerating the United States’ preventative response to climate change. We have at least one good mechanism at our disposal to do this: Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL).
CCL advocates a carbon fee and dividend to accelerate transformation of our energy economy. The carbon fee and dividend proposal works by imposing a fee on fossil fuels and returning the revenue to the economy through dividends to the citizenry.
Every molecule of CO2 entering the environment represents a subsidy to the fossil-fuel producer. The fee component of the carbon fee and dividend removes this subsidy. The dividend offsets energy cost increases to consumers and funds investment in clean energy transformation.
A study by Regional Economic Modeling Inc. (REMI) showed job creation and GDP growth through dividend reinvestment substantially exceeded any adverse impacts of a diminishing fossil-fuel industry, while reducing CO2 emissions 33 percent after 10 years and 52 percent after 20 years.
Carbon pricing is absolutely necessary to reduce C02 emissions in an acceptable time frame. Of all potential carbon pricing schemes, carbon fee and dividend relies least on regulatory oversight and most on market forces to shape the transformed energy economy.
To learn more about Citizens Climate Lobby, carbon fee and dividend, and how you can join a local chapter, please visit http://www.citizensclimatelobby.org .
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