Our civilization has benefited greatly from the use of fossil fuel to power our lives, for which I am grateful. Unfortunately, scientific investigation has made it clear that the carbon dioxide emitted as a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion is warming our climate far beyond the stable climate in which our civilization thrived over the last 10,000 years.

As a former editor-in-chief of a major climate journal, I can say this conclusion is well established.

These changes are affecting regional agriculture and farmers. Just lately the Capital Press has reported:

• “Heat shrinks Pacific Northwest hops yield.”

• “Scorching heat challenges Oregon pear growers.”

• “Northwest potato farmers clobbered by weather.”

• “Severe drought devastates Washington state’s wheat crop.”

• “U.S. unveils plan to address ‘silent killer’ extreme heat.”

• “Washington state sets new rule for farm workers in wildfire smoke.”

• “Washington state sets heat rule for farmworkers.”

• “Oregon OSHA investigates death of farmworker.”

• “Convoy delivers hay donations to Southern Oregon.”

• “The Big Dry: Drought, water shortage ‘tear at fabric’ of Klamath Basin.”

• A reader said chickens were killed by the heat wave.

And the Oregonian has reported:

• “Oregon farm worker dies during heat wave.”

• “Record heat wave scorches crops across Oregon and drought could worsen loss to growers.”

• “Receding Eastern Oregon reservoir nears record low.”

• “Climate change and hot dry summers mean big trouble for Oregon’s trees.”

• “Northwest trees sapped by Oregon and Washington heat waves.…”

• “Wells run dry in many Klamath Basin homes.”

• A reader in the The Dalles said half of their cherry crop was ruined by the heat wave.

The millennial-frequency drought and heat wave have hit our region hard.

Fortunately, research and development has led to the availability of competitive technologies that are not reliant on fossil fuels: heat pumps, air conditioners, electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and tractors, and electricity production from nuclear reactors, hydroelectric dams, solar panels, wind turbines, and more.

A carbon fee, returned to the economy in equal shares of the total revenue to all Americans in monthly carbon dividend checks, is an economic method to correct a the market failure whereby the impacts and costs of carbon emissions are borne by the public — through heat-wave deaths, drought and heat crop losses including loss of irrigation water, wildfire smoke health impacts and destruction of property, higher taxes and higher insurance premiums to pay for recovery from catastrophic climate disasters. The carbon fee helps the public by disincentivizing the burning of fossil fuels, emissions of carbon, and the associated harm to the public.

The uniform carbon dividend ensures government doesn’t grow and is a simple albeit imperfect way to compensate taxpayers, insurance premium payers and the direct victims of climate (and health) impacts.

If the carbon fee is applied near where it enters the economy, the price signal spreads through the entire economy, making carbon-intensive products more expensive. But since consumers, businesses and utilities now have alternatives to such products, carbon-free products are more competitive and are therefore chosen by more consumers, businesses, and utilities. Consumers can use their carbon dividend to cover the higher cost of carbon-intensive products, or to invest in carbon-free technology to avoid paying the passed-on carbon fee. Most families would receive more carbon dividend than they pay in carbon fee. The carbon fee and dividend is a simple and effective way to disincentivize carbon emissions without prescriptive regulations.

In the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 2307), the fee on ag fuel is rebated. A border adjustment makes importers pay tariffs on goods if their country lacks an effective climate policy, which drives countries like China to also price carbon and U.S. manufacturers to keep production in the U.S.

The carbon fee and dividend do not prohibit anything. Freedom of choice is preserved, the market failure corrected, and our climate saved for us and future generations.

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Steve Ghan of Richland, Wash., leads the Tri-Cities Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby. He meets with mid-Columbia farmers to discuss agriculture and climate change.

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