As the Oregon legislature ended its 2021 session, an epic heat wave hit the Pacific Northwest, punctuating the importance of a bipartisan breakthrough for climate.

A substantial number of Oregon Republican legislators joined majority Democratic support for a carbon fee and dividend policy at the national level. Senate Joint Memorial 5, asking Congress to pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (currently HR 2307) passed the Oregon Senate in April with a majority of Republicans joining all Democratic senators.

In the House, over half of the representatives co-sponsored it, including two-thirds of Democrats and a third of Republicans. An additional 10% had already endorsed the federal act. (The bill didn’t come to a vote in the Oregon House despite the clear majority support.)

The epic June 26-28 heat wave brought home how agriculture and natural resource operations are facing increasing, severe effects from climate change in the Pacific Northwest. On my farm near Oregon City the heat wave killed chickens, stressed the goats and killed some of the blueberry and raspberry crops, causing a personal “red alert.” My husband and I are wondering how our farm can remain productive with continued heat waves and drought.

Our experience mirrored UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ assessment of the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, calling it “a code red for humanity.”

The magnitude of the challenges to agriculture and natural resources in the past year highlights the urgent need for climate solutions that protect the agricultural and natural resource industry in the Pacific Northwest. Because solutions can be slow to implement and to achieve reductions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, quickly initiated and quick acting solutions are needed. Bi-partisan solutions are needed to bypass the partisan infighting and to allow stable solutions continued when either party is in power.

The carbon fee with border adjustment and dividend approach is simple and effective.

The gradually-increasing fee on fossil fuels is applied at the well, mine or border to provide the financial incentive to nudge the economy towards non-emitting practices with this clear and predictable market signal. The dividend evenly returns the money to all Americans as a monthly payment without growing government thereby protecting poor and middle income Americans from the increased cost. Agricultural diesel is exempt from the fee. The border adjustment keeps the fee from disadvantaging American industry in the face of international competition. And many economists and computer models see the fee being the single most important step getting us to being carbon neutral by 2050, as science says is necessary.

A strong and bipartisan majority of Oregon’s legislators recognize carbon fee and dividend as a fair and needed way to solve the climate impacts on us. They join a growing, bipartisan, nationwide recognition. It’s time for Congress to take note and take urgent action.

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Elizabeth Graser-Lindsey is a Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteer and with her husband owns and operates a small farm in Beavercreek, Ore.

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