Recently, sensors at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii reported that concentrations of CO2 had reached 415 parts per million (ppm) in our atmosphere. This is a level last seen more than 3 million years ago — long before humans even appeared.
“We’re racing toward a state very different from the kind humans evolved in and that civilization developed in,” said Ralph Keeling, a geochemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.
If you are alarmed or concerned about climate change, you have a lot of company. Fifty-nine percent of Americans agree with you, 23 percent are simply cautious or disengaged, while only 18 percent are doubtful or dismissive. There is a new sense of urgency about taking strong global action to stabilize the climate.
National leaders, including generals, economists, doctors, nurses, federal judges and architects, are calling for decisive climate action. In Santa Barbara, local activists are urging county government to prevent additional emissions by stopping new oil development in Cat Canyon and joining worldwide climate demonstrations.
The recent IPCC report by the world’s leading climate scientists provides clear greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to avoid an extremely dangerous climate with unstoppable natural feedbacks. To keep the increase in global temperature safely below 1.5 degrees Celsius, we must reduce global emissions 40 to 60 percent by 2030, and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
There are personal actions we can take to stabilize our climate. Individually, we can reduce our carbon footprints and we can support local, regional and state policies to reduce emissions. But what can we do to promote immediate and effective national action on climate?
Five years ago, I joined the local chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit, grassroots organization. CCL was founded in 2007 to build the political will for climate solutions. Now we have more than 130,000 supporters in chapters across the country.
The IPCC report recommended carbon pricing as the best way to accelerate emission reductions and spark energy innovation. The good news is, after more than a decade of work by Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers and others, the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763) has been introduced in Congress. This bill has 36 co-sponsors including our representative, Salud Carbajal.
The aggressive rate of carbon fee increase in HR 763 guarantees it would exceed the U.S. emissions target written into the Paris Agreement. In fact, this policy alone would put us well on the way to a 90 percent reduction below 1990 emissions by 2050. It would also result in emission reductions that closely track the IPCC recommendations through 2040.
The 100 percent dividend in this policy ensures that most low- and middle-income families would be protected from increasing energy prices. This guarantees long-term public support for the policy. The carbon border fee adjustment creates a real incentive for other countries to match the price in this bill, providing leadership for a global response to a global problem. The regulatory adjustments are narrow, simply preventing redundant regulations, and keeping intact key legislation like the Clean Air Act.
The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act would accelerate our national transition to clean energy and rapidly reduce our emissions. It would be good for the American economy, good for our health, good for our pocketbooks, and good for our planet. The resulting prosperity and political goodwill would provide a strong foundation for planning and implementing the broader goals of the proposed Green New Deal.
Let’s work together to heal our climate and begin collecting our dividends.
John D. Kelley
The author is group leader of the Citizens Climate Lobby, Santa Barbara Chapter.