Climate change is increasingly recognized as a threat to our environment, our economy and human well-being. Many wonder what this daunting subject means for the world around them, and what we, as citizens and as a society, can do to address the problem. John Smillie, Crawfordsville resident and member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby — a grassroots, non-partisan advocacy organization focused on national policy responses to climate change — delivered a presentation on these topics at Lunch with the League on Nov. 4 at Whitlock Hall in Crawfordsville.
The presentation began with the scientific facts and impacts of climate change. There is overwhelming agreement in the scientific community that human activities, particularly fossil fuel usage, are releasing greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere and warming our planet. Earth’s average temperature is already around 1°C higher than pre-industrial levels, and this increase drives more severe weather around the globe. Droughts and floods are becoming more common. Wildfires are growing in size and frequency. Hurricanes are becoming more destructive. Sea level rise is already plaguing coastal cities like Baltimore and Miami Beach with flooded streets. These problems get worse with each degree of warming. In order to keep warming below 1.5°C, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we need to cut CO2 emissions in half by 2030, and to net-zero by 2050.
After covering the science, Smillie described a policy for reducing CO2 emissions — carbon fee and dividend. In a carbon fee and dividend plan, coal, oil, and natural gas producers are charged a fee at the point of extraction or the port of entry. The fee is based on how many tons of CO2 the fuel would release when burned. The collected fees are paid as dividends to all citizens in equal amounts each month. Carbon fee and dividend is the cornerstone of a CCL-backed bill currently in front of the U.S. House of Representatives — H.R. 763, or the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. The EICDA is a bipartisan bill with 69 cosponsors from 22 states.
Smillie quoted a study indicating the EICDA would reduce CO2 emissions by 40% within 12 years. EICDA’s steadily rising fees would make fossil-based energy more expensive, which would incentivize consumers to lower their energy consumption and drive investment in energy efficiency and emissions-free energy production. However, consumers would be financially protected from rising energy costs by the monthly dividends. Any household using less than the average amount of fossil-based energy would come out ahead, and these households would typically be low- and middle-income. Lower emissions would drive substantial health benefits as well, as air pollution is responsible for more than 100,000 American deaths each year.
Smillie concluded by encouraging attendees to act. He recommended three levels of action, each more important than the last. Individual actions included reducing home energy usage and eating less meat. Local actions included talking with the people in your life about climate change. Finally, national actions included voting, calling your representatives and advocating for climate policy.
The League of Women Voters, open to men as well as women, is a nonpartisan, political organization which encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues, and influences policy through education and advocacy. For information about the League, visit the website at www.lwvmontcoin.org or send a message to LWV, P.O. Box 101, Crawfordsville, IN 47933.