A Capital Press Feb. 21 editorial correctly questions cap-and-trade legislation currently in the Oregon legislature. It states that this law would increase costs of fossil fuels used by agriculture in rural Oregon: “nursery operators, farmers and ranchers who live and work there.”

Pete Haug

Pete Haug

What isn’t mentioned is the cost of doing nothing. Strong evidence suggests that cost is mounting quickly. It can include increase in droughts, flooding, extreme heat, wildfires, and other extremes in shifting weather patterns driven by climate change.

The proposed Oregon legislation’s impact on climate change is estimated to “reduce the overall global emissions of carbon by something on the order of 0.12 percent,” a minuscule amount. Yet, this is one of a few state-level actions initiated because solutions are not forthcoming nationally. The editorial identifies the heart of the problem: “We need a plan that has a significant and affordable impact on the changing climate.”

One such plan is HR 763, the “Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act,” a bipartisan national congressional bill supported by Citizens’ Climate Lobby that would address many of these problems. Critically, it would protect fuels used on farms and it would return fees collected on carbon to the people with minimal administrative costs. No money would go to the government.

Realistically, to address change effectively, efforts must be global. Worldwide efforts are already under way. Most European nations are implementing actions as agreed in the 2015 Paris agreement. China has been aware of environmental problems for decades: In the fall of 1998, traveling through coal dust clouds, I saw wind farms near Inner Mongolia northwest of Beijing. The following year in Dalian, solar energy provided our apartment’s hot water.

On our own continent, Canada has been addressing climate change for years. A government web page describes “a pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution, and measures to achieve reductions across all sectors of the economy.” It lists actions “to advance climate change adaptation and build resilience to climate impacts across the country.”

Last April, a comprehensive MIT review reported that taxes on carbon dioxide emissions might actually be both fair and effective in reducing pollution: “Permanently reducing pollution might come down to basic economics.” Such taxes “would enable us to meet our 2030 commitments” to the Paris accord. In October, the New York Times reported “more than 40 governments around the world … have now put a price on carbon.”

The U.S. is ready to join these global initiatives. A 2016 poll by the Carbon Tax Center found “half of Americans expressed support for a carbon tax … more than twice as high as any previous round of the survey.” A 2018 Yale University study found that 77% of those surveyed wanted to “regulate CO2 as a pollutant.”

Last September, “the most ambitious carbon price enacted by any major emitter nation” was released by the Climate Leadership Council (CLC): “Exceeding Paris: How the Baker-Shultz carbon dividends plan would significantly exceed the U.S. Paris commitment,” The Baker-Shultz plan, “The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends,” was initiated by former Republican Secretaries of State James Baker and George Shultz and was published in 2017.

Many of the ideas in this plan have morphed into national bipartisan legislation, HR 763 - The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act mentioned above: https://energyinnovationact.org/how-it-works/ .

Recognizing the importance of agriculture, that legislation contains special provisions for refunding “carbon fee costs in fuels … used on farms.” During its first 12 years, the act is projected to reduce emissions throughout America by at least 40%. It is considered “revenue neutral” in that money collected through a carbon fee will be allocated equally to all Americans, and it’s simpler to administer than any cap-and-trade plan, because it requires far less bureaucracy.

Climate change isn’t limited to Oregon, nor even to North America. It doesn’t recognize political boundaries. Yet as we join other nations worldwide, we can move forward by encouraging our representatives to support HR 763 regardless of political affiliation. Such a national policy, especially when bipartisan as is HR 763, stands a better chance of passage and long-term effectiveness.

Together, we can move this nation forward in unprecedented ways, addressing climate change, and at the same time protect and benefit the producers of our food.

Pete Haug retired in 2007 after teaching English in China for 11 years. He also had a previous career in environmental impact analysis for state and federal agencies and the Quinault Indian Nation over about three decades.

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