Last Wednesday was Climate Day at the White House. For those of us who trust scientists, the actions taken by the Biden administration in its first week were heartening. The executive branch is taking global warming seriously – and it is none too soon.

Global warming is a national security threat, a threat to Americans’ lives, property and livelihoods. A little over two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, synthesizing findings from over 100 climate scientists across the globe, announced that countries had 12 years to make a serious effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions if the planet is to avoid disastrous climate events. Now we have 10 years.

In the past two years, glaciers and ice sheets have melted faster than forecast. Ocean currents, which cool the planet, have slowed faster than anticipated. Wildfires have destroyed greater areas and reached into the Arctic. Storms have been stronger and more numerous. Each year is hotter than the last. Costs of climate events continue to skyrocket. The planet is screaming, “Burn fossil fuels at your peril.”

President Biden responded, “We need to be bold.”

Where is the legislative branch on this issue? Without comprehensive climate legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, the Biden administration cannot be bold.

Planting a trillion trees hardly moves the needle to net zero by 2050. No one policy will, but the most effective, quickest and cheapest policy to reduce carbon emissions is a carbon price (aka carbon tax or carbon fee). It uses a market mechanism, price, to change consumption and investment behaviors throughout the economy.

Faced with prices that reflect the damage fossil fuels are doing to the atmosphere, consumers will choose how they want to move to green energy. Conservatives, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, like market mechanisms and don’t like subsidies and regulations, which will do the job at a much higher cost than a carbon price, but for which the government picks winners and losers sector by sector.

U.S. senators from fossil-fuel states may be the impediments to going bold on climate policy. They do not want coal, natural gas and oil production reduced during their terms in office. However, the coal industry has been shrinking despite politicians’ efforts to prop it up.

Public opinion favors bold climate action. New, good-paying jobs will be created in expanding green industries. Other countries are sprinting ahead of the U.S. in green-energy production as the U.S. clings to 20th-century energy sources. Congress can pass policies to help communities hurt during the transition.

No policies will be bold enough unless there is a target year for stopping the use of fossil fuels. Globally, we don’t have a big enough supply of alternative energy to replace fossil fuels in the next decade or two, but fossil fuels do need to be phased out in order for us to stop global warming and avoid more disastrous climate events.

What can you do? Exercise your rights as a citizen of a democracy. Write or call your members of Congress and tell them that you want them to support a carbon pricing policy similar to the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which places a fee on fossil fuels and returns revenue to American households on an equal basis as a monthly dividend check. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act will reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent in 10 years, according to a study by economists at Columbia University, while other researchers have found that it will protect low- and middle-income households from the price increases caused by the carbon fee. It will not grow the government, it is revenue neutral, it will reduce air pollution and improve health and it appeals to both sides of the aisle. It is the best, first step to bold.


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