On Nov. 5, 1965, the group known as the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology cautioned President Lyndon B. Johnson that continued accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from fossil-fuel burning would “almost certainly cause significant changes” that could harm human beings.
In January, NASA, NOAA and Berkeley Earth, an independent nonprofit, released their global temperature analyses finding the Earth’s global temperatures in 2019 were the second warmest since at least 1880, when modern record-keeping began.
In my lifetime, every decade since the 1960s has clearly been warmer than the one before, and this trend will not stop until we stop emitting greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel usage into our atmosphere. Until we do so, the economic and environmental risks and costs will keep piling up.
The good news is that Americans are waking up to this reality. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has been tracking public awareness and engagement for years.
In their most recent research released in the past two months, 67% of Americans view global warming as important to them personally, 66% of Americans think Congress should do more to address it, and 45% of registered voters say a candidate’s position on global warming will be “very important” when they decide who they will vote for in 2020.
The business community also realizes that human-caused climate change poses significant risks to their interests and are making commitments to do decarbonize their operations and supply chains. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce bluntly states, “Inaction is not an option.”
BlackRock, the world’s largest financial asset manager, in January said it will make climate change central to its investment considerations, and not just for environmental reasons, but because it believes that climate change is reshaping the world’s financial system.
The business community, along with economists, recognize their efforts will not be enough to fully decarbonize the global economy in line with climate science. Smart government policy is the key pillar to the deep decarbonization efforts.
Organizations like Microsoft, IBM, General Motors, Exxon Mobil, Proctor and Gamble and the Nature Conservancy, along with political figures and economists from both sides of the aisle are rallying behind a carbon dividend framework as a consensus cornerstone to America’s deep decarbonization efforts.
This framework is built around four pillars.
First, a gradually rising fee on carbon emissions that ensures that every business and person is accountable for their carbon footprint. They, not the government, will get to decide how to best respond and on what timeframe.
Second, carbon dividends for all Americans to insulate up to 70% of Americans from any potential energy cost increases.
Third, simplified regulations for businesses to innovate and unleash market opportunities for technologies that currently exist and those that need to be invented.
Four, compelling other countries to do their part. America will be in the driver’s seat while China, India and others will need to follow our lead.
Fifty-five years ago, Congress and the president were warned about the risks of greenhouse gases from fossil-fuel burning. Every Congress and president since then has ducked addressing the fundamental problem. We must demand that they fix the multi-generational and multinational market failure that enables global warming and forces us to socialize the costs and risks of human-caused climate change.
Carbon dividends are the framework, and the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is the policy that fixes this market failure.
What’s in it for you? If we handled climate risk the way that businesses manage risk every day, we would have summoned the political will to pass the EICDA a long time ago. It ensures that everyone is working together to solve climate change, ushers in a wave of new careers, uses affordable and reliable technology to power our lives and incentivizes massive innovation.
It also gives us peace of mind, taking a significant risk and turning it into a significant opportunity for the betterment of us all today and for future generations to come.