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A solution to climate change that Democrats (and Republicans) can rally behind

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With animosity between Republicans and Democrats in Congress running at an all-time high, it’s refreshing to see some lawmakers from both sides of the aisle setting aside political differences to tackle perhaps the greatest challenge civilization has ever faced: climate change.

On Jan. 24, a group of House members — led by Florida lawmakers Democrat Ted Deutch and Republican Francis Rooney — reintroduced the bipartisan climate solution known as Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763). It places a steadily rising fee on carbon pollution and gives the revenue to households to support people as America transitions to a clean energy economy.

{mosads}This is no timid half-measure. The rate of increase for the carbon fee will push the price to $100 per metric ton within a decade, making it one of the most ambitious carbon-pricing policies in the world. Setting such a high price will bring emissions down at least 40 percent in the first 12 years and 90 percent by 2050.

A chief consideration about carbon pricing is the impact it will have on vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income households. Families that struggle paycheck-to-paycheck making ends meet can ill afford to absorb higher costs in their heating and electric bills and at the gas pump. By returning all net revenue to households, the Energy Innovation Act is a progressive policy that puts money in everyone’s pockets, making a big difference for people who truly need it. In most instances, people in lower income brackets will see more benefit from the carbon dividend than they will pay in increased costs associated with the fee.

The policy protects vulnerable people in other ways. It reduces air pollution responsible for an estimated 114,000 deaths each year. Much of that pollution is concentrated in low-income areas. By reducing our carbon emissions, this legislation will ensure that extreme weather doesn’t continue to get worse and worse, destroying the homes of people who lack the resources to put their lives back together.

Those weather-related disasters appear to be shifting public views about climate change as people see the connection between warmer temperatures and things that imperil their personal well-being — rising seas, devastating floods, damaging storms and horrific wildfires. In one poll, 74 percent of Americans said extreme weather has influenced their opinion about climate change. Another poll, this one from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, found a dramatic jump — 9 percent since last March — in the number of people who said global warming is very important to them.

With more and more people waking up to the reality of climate change, pressure is mounting in Congress, both for Republicans and Democrats, to start implementing effective solutions, effective being the operative word. The fee-and-dividend approach received a ringing endorsement last week from 45 of the nation’s top economists, including former chairs of the Federal Reserve and numerous Nobel laureates.

Their assessment: “A carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary… To maximize the fairness and political viability of a rising carbon tax, all the revenue should be returned directly to U.S. citizens through equal lump-sum rebates. The majority of American families, including the most vulnerable, will benefit financially by receiving more in ‘carbon dividends’ than they pay in increased energy prices.”

{mossecondads}It’s time we as a country listened to the experts, whether it is a legion of renowned economists or thousands of scientists who’ve devoted their life’s work to the study of climate change. These experts are telling us we have a huge problem with climate change that needs to be addressed now, and the best first step is a robust price on carbon.

With each new report showing that the climate is changing more rapidly than previously thought, the urgency for immediate action becomes crystal clear. Essentially, we can no longer kick the can down the road, because the road is very short. With Congress divided between a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democratic-controlled House, a bipartisan approach is the only way to enact a solution in the near term. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is the bipartisan solution that will put us on the path to preserving a livable climate.

Mark Reynolds is executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Tags carbon emissions Carbon tax Climate change Environment Francis Rooney Mark Reynolds Pollution Ted Deutch

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