Saturday, November 17, 2018

Climate Change Revisited

                                                                                                written 10 November 2018
                                                                                                published 17 November 2018

            Most election results are in, and the analysis has begun.  The Republican gridlock on thinking has been broken for the moment, and consideration of real issues can begin.  For me, the largest issue is climate change, which has been denied, and made worse, by our anti-science president and his followers.  
            A recent scientific study found evidence that ocean warming over the past few decades is 60% greater than previously estimated.  This explains some of the rapid calving of ice off of Antarctica, and the very warm temperatures in the Arctic Ocean.  This year the Arctic sea ice minimum was the fourth lowest on record, and the onset of refreezing has been delayed by almost a month, a new record. Massive fires in the west and deluges in the east are causing people to see that climate change is happening right now, which helped to shift the House to the Democrats.  As I write this, the dark smoke cloud coming from the Camp fire in Butte county caused our street light to come on.
            But the fossil fuel industry, desiring to keep its lucrative status quo, used political donations to resist change, defeating a Colorado proposal for 2500' setbacks from houses for new fracking wells, and Arizona and Nevada efforts to set renewable energy targets for their states.  Only Florida was successful in limiting oil expansion, passing a ban on near shore oil wells.
            A more direct legislative effort to avoid climate suicide was Washington State initiative 1631, which proposed a tax on carbon emissions at their source. The tax rate would increase each year, creating a market based incentive to shift to de-carbonized energy systems. The funds would have been invested in renewable energy systems.  The oil industry spent over $30M to successfully defeat this initiative, advertising that the tax would increase costs for the poorest of our community.  While this argument is self-serving for the corporations, it raised valid economic concerns.
            A better alternative, called Carbon Tax and Dividend, is proposed by the Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL).  The carbon tax would start at $15/ton of carbon, or greenhouse gas carbon equivalent, levied at the point of production.  An import duty based on carbon energy content, would be applied to every product imported into the country, if it hadn't already been taxed in its country of origin. This would eliminate shifting pollution overseas, and provide an incentive for other countries to enact a carbon tax, as climate change requires global effort.  This tax would increase every year at a fixed rate of $10/ton/year, giving producers a known incentive to invest in alternatives.  
            The difference between this plan and the Washington initiative is what happens to the tax funds.  Rather than an appointed committee controlling investment, 100% of the tax revenue would be distributed to the people, without regard to income or carbon footprint. This is similar to the oil dividends distributed to every Alaskan to compensate for the adverse impact of that industry on their state.  The return of the tax proceeds as a dividend makes this plan revenue neutral.
            The distributed dividend would address the concern raised in the Washington campaign.  CCL estimates that a family of four would receive an annual dividend of $540 the first year, rising to $2,640 within five years, increasing from there.  This would offset the increased costs of high carbon energy, and allow people to investment in low carbon alternatives.  As the production tax increases and companies invest in low carbon alternatives, millions of new jobs would be created, while reducing carbon emissions.  Find more details of this plan at  
            Some Republican conservatives are promoting a similar plan called the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan. Go to for more details.  The tax and revenue neutral dividend functions are identical to the CCL plan, but with an additional gift to corporations.  The Baker-Shultz plan would eliminate EPA regulatory jurisdiction over carbon, repeal the Clean Energy Plan, and, most significantly, indemnify fossil fuel companies from liability for historic emissions, continued funding of climate denial, and misleading investors.  
            Even when faced with human extinction, Republicans try to game the system for exclusive corporate economic gain.  However, there is bi-partisan support for a carbon tax, so humans might endure.