For the sake of the world, let’s work together
Editor’s note: The News-Press has not called a winner in the presidential race.
In the home stretch of the 2020 campaign, presidential candidate Joe Biden leaned hard into the issue of climate change, giving a televised climate speech and running climate-focused ads in swing states. His campaign bet that this issue, once considered politically risky, would now be a winner.
That bet paid off. The votes have been tallied, and candidate Joe Biden is now President-Elect Joe Biden. But, as is often the case, his party doesn’t have unified control across the whole federal government.
Next year, President Biden will govern alongside a Democratic House, a conservative Supreme Court and a Senate that could either have a slim Republican or Democratic majority. That makes “working together” the order of the day.
Encouragingly, President-Elect Biden understands that people of any party can and do care about climate change. In a speech this fall, he said, “Hurricanes don’t swerve to avoid red states or blue states. Wildfires don’t skip towns that voted a certain way. The impacts of climate change don’t pick and choose. It’s not a partisan phenomenon, and our response should be the same.”
Some Republicans in the Senate are expressing similar opinions. In October 2020, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, participated in a climate policy webinar with her climate-hawk colleague, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island. She noted that bipartisanship makes a policy durable, so she said, “Let’s work in a way that is going to get the support that you need from both Republicans and Democrats.”
According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, the number of Americans who are “alarmed” about climate change has more than doubled since 2015, from 11 percent to 26. All told, 54 percent of Americans are either “alarmed” or “concerned” about climate change. Here in Santa Barbara County, 71 percent are worried about global warming.
Frankly, those numbers make sense. This year has made it obvious that climate change is here and already hurting Americans. For example, more than five million acres have burned across Western states this year, displacing thousands of people.
According to the latest State of California Climate Change Assessment, in the coming decades our Central Coast Region will experience more flooding from accelerating sea level rise, increased maximum and minimum temperatures, and more frequent and severe droughts and wildfires.
We need to move as quickly as we can to address the root cause of these extreme events: excess greenhouse gas emissions.
One fast-acting, effective climate policy we should enact is a carbon fee. Congress could charge a fee or price on all oil, gas and coal we use in the U.S., based on the greenhouse gas emissions they produce.
Putting that price on pollution will steer our country toward cleaner options, slashing our harmful emissions across many areas of our economy at once. The revenue from these carbon fees can be paid to Americans on a monthly basis. This “carbon dividend” would put money in people’s pockets while we transition to a clean-energy economy.
Carbon fee legislation like this already exists in Congress. Known as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763), it enjoys support across the political spectrum, including from many organizations and individuals in our county, and U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, who is a co-sponsor.
Let’s urge our senators to join the effort to make the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act the law of the land. With the incoming president clearly committed to addressing climate change, and millions of Americans eager for solutions, now is the time to act.
Congress should seize this opportunity.
John D. Kelley is group leader of the Santa Barbara Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby.
Mark Reynolds is national executive director of Citizens Climate Lobby.
John D. Kelley and