John Newton, chief economist of the American Farm Bureau recently wrote: “Agriculture will continue to play an important role in helping the world adapt to and mitigate climate change, but U.S. farmers and ranchers can’t do it alone: partners are needed to help balance economic sustainability with environmental sustainability.” (“Farmers mitigating climate change; partners needed,” Capital Press, Sept. 4).
We couldn’t agree more.
As impeachment proceedings ratchet up the partisan tension in Washington, there’s still hope that progress can be made on the pressing problems of the day. It appears Republicans and Democrats are coming together on one issue that seemed intractable not long ago: climate change.
In the Senate, Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana is teaming up with Maryland Democrat Chris Coons to form a bipartisan climate solutions group.
The Senate group complements the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the House that was established in 2016. It became a judgment-free zone where members of both parties could come together for serious discussions about solving climate change. Today, there are myriad bipartisan climate bills in the House, thanks in no small part to the collaborative atmosphere the caucus created.
A bipartisan approach to solving climate change is essential, because passing legislation requires buy-in from both sides of the aisle. Regardless of which party controls the Senate and White House, political winds shift, and policies with broad support will withstand those shifts.
Republicans and Democrats are seeking common ground on climate change because public opinion has reached a tipping point that cannot be ignored. A CBS News poll last month found two-thirds of Americans view climate change as a crisis or serious problem, and a majority want immediate action.
Overwhelming majorities of younger GOP voters regard climate change as a serious threat, too: 77% of them said so in a survey by Ipsos and Newsy this fall.
It’s not just polling motivating Congress — it’s citizens. Volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby are carrying a clear message to their representatives: “Make climate a bridge issue, not a wedge issue.” CCL volunteers have held 1,131 meetings with congressional offices so far this year to bring the parties together on climate change.
Now that we have Republicans and Democrats talking to each other about climate solutions, what major climate legislation will they support together?
A price on carbon offers promising common ground. Thousands of U.S. economists support carbon pricing as an effective tool to reduce emissions quickly. Newsweek recently surveyed 300 multinational corporations and found that 95% favor mandatory carbon pricing. And according to Luntz Global, carbon pricing that includes a revenue return to Americans, has 4-to-1 support among all voters.
This year, four carbon pricing bills have been introduced with bipartisan sponsorship.
Of the four, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) has attracted the most support, with 66 House members now signed on, including Republican Francis Rooney of Florida. This legislation would initiate a fee of $15 per metric ton of carbon, rising by $10 per ton each year.
All revenue would be paid out equally to every household. In 10 years, a family of four would receive an annual “carbon dividend” of about $3,500. Resources for the Future estimates this policy would reduce carbon emissions 47% by 2030. The bill targets 90% reductions by 2050.
John also said: “Innovation is key to advance the preservation of our natural resources.”
And, that is one of the main purposes of this bill — energy innovation.
Although this bill is focused on fossil-fuel emissions — it does not cover things like methane from livestock and manure and nitrous oxide from farming operations — by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it does help farmers and ranchers to preserve our natural resources. The bill states that “non-fossil fuel emissions that occur on a farm” are not subject to the carbon fee.
Agricultural fuel-generated emissions account for less than 1% of our total emissions (see https://climate.nasa.gov/causes/).
In California, Oregon and Washington alone, 16 local governments and 55 businesses have already endorsed the bill, along with hundreds of faith leaders, churches and nonprofits. That support, here and throughout the country, sends a signal to Republican lawmakers that backing H.R. 763 can be a politically astute move.
Despite the current hyper-partisan atmosphere, elected officials are realizing that climate change is one area where differences must be set aside for the good of our nation and the world. Not only are they realizing it, but they’re starting to act on it.