Climate Connections: There are ways you can help to cut carbon emissions
The purpose of this ongoing series of articles on Climate Connections is to move beyond the arguments around our climate chaos and to find area we can agree on. You may not believe in the climate issues of today … but you may be concerned about the use of plastics and the oceans. You may also be concerned about air and water quality. Whatever you want to call it, the planet needs our stewardship. The writers here will share their perspectives from many angles. Perhaps some or all will resonate with you, and bring to our awareness the necessary actions we can take. We will leave the arguments and differing beliefs to others.
— Marilyn Nyborg,
Burning just one gallon of gasoline will result in the emission of about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? I mean, a gallon of gasoline only weighs about 6.3 pounds.
It’s because the carbon and hydrogen atoms separate when gasoline burns, and each joins with another compound – oxygen – to form carbon dioxide and water.
Scientists discovered the greenhouse effect, the fact that carbon dioxide can have a powerful effect on the earth’s temperature, in the 1850’s, but it wasn’t until 1958 that they were able to measure it and determine how fast the temperature increases. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has set a limit of 2 degrees Celsius warming worldwide from pre-industrial times. The chart above shows us that, at 1.2 degrees, we are more than halfway there. How high we go and how long we stay there will determine the impact to increasingly larger percentages of life on Earth.
Plants breath in carbon dioxide and breath out oxygen, which is why we need to work with nature to keep our environment in balance, but even as we begin to drive more electric vehicles and adopt alternative methods of producing energy, total carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise. They rose 3.4% in the United States last year, even while multiple coal-powered power plants were retired. A strong economy meant more emissions from factories, planes and trucks, and few policies are in place to clean up those sectors.
Back in 2012, California began to enforce its own Cap and Trade Program, a sort of licensed emissions trading scheme. Businesses are allowed a maximum, or “cap” on total emissions, but are allowed to trade permits which flow to those that move away from carbon-emitting energy sources. Such regulations may be preferable when a jurisdiction has a specified emissions target, but to be more effective in combating climate change, we need not only to create incentives to use alternative energies, we need to disincentivize the use of fossil fuels.
A straight tax on carbon would get the job done, but it would put unnecessary pressure on consumers. It would not only reduce consumption of fossil fuels, it would constrain overall economic activity. We’re all aware of the stifling effect high gas prices have at the pump, as well as to the broader economy.
That is why in January of this year, Representative Ted Deutch of Florida, along with several co-sponsors, introduced a bipartisan bill to the U.S. House of Representatives. HR 763’s goal is to create a Carbon Dividend Trust Fund that will encourage innovation in clean energy. Since it is a carbon fee dividend tax, the fee is applied at the source, where the carbon-containing fuel is mined, drilled or imported, and then the money is given back to consumers in the form of a monthly dividend check. The plan spurs economic growth by helping to offset a slow rise in the price of fossil fuels.
A family of four will receive an estimated $3,456 annual dividend under the measure. The poorest of families will use the money right away, thus producing the strongest economic boost. That is by design, because low-income communities, and more vulnerable populations are less prepared to cope with disruptions inherent with climate change.
Proponents of HR 763 say businesses and consumers can more easily plan their renewable energy investments. If the current trend is any indication, investments are likely to intensify in the years following passage of the bill.
Tech companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft are the largest corporate buyers of renewable energy to date. They do it to meet ever-expanding data needs in their worldwide operations. The private sector has gotten into the act, as well, investing nearly $57 billion primarily in onshore wind and solar projects in 2018.
You’d think this would be enough to turn things around without any kind of a carbon tax, but it’s not. Worldwide, we are dumping 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide per second into the atmosphere. Turning off the spigot will take time, sacrifice, and at least some degree of discomfort, but there are ways you can help.
One is by joining the nonpartisan group Citizen’s Climate Lobby (CCL) and working for passage of The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763). Nevada County chapter meetings are held the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Briar Patch Co-Op Community Room.
The other way to help is by burning less gasoline.
Linda Schuyler Horning is a member of Citizen’s Climate Lobby and the author of “Buhari — A Family Odyssey in Nepal” (2017). More information at https://lindahorning.me.
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