"Future generations will look back at the time we are living in now. The kind of future they look from, and the story they tell about our period, will be shaped by choices we make in our lifetimes."
— Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, Active Hope
Global warming: what an oppressive topic this has been to me. I'm not one to hide from the news – I read, I see, I worry. Every day, in the United States, 80 million tons of CO2 get pumped into the atmosphere, driving planet temperatures higher and creating ever-increasing bad news about rising oceans, extreme weather, loss of species – all of which, if left unchecked, will bring a great deal of suffering. I recently saw the movie “Chasing Ice,” which shows glaciers melting at an ever-increasing pace, sliding into the sea. And I know that 97% of all scientists agree that global warming is the result of human activity.
My grandchildren look at the grownups around them with such trust! They can't know that the quality of their future lives depends on their grownups acting now – that in a few years it will be too late to make much difference.
But reading as I do has not just acquainted me with the bad news. I have also learned about many of the creative and courageous organizations that have sprung up around the globe to take on one or another of the challenges brought on by climate change. For the past year I have been a part of one of these: a fast growing national movement that is promoting a plan that they believe will make a significant cut in greenhouse gasses.
Citizens Climate Lobby (citizensclimatelobby.org) is working on a single project, based on ideas of economists and climate scientists: to get a fee placed on carbon-based fuels – coal, gas and oil – all major sources of the problem. A fee on carbon, rising slowly over a number of years, say economists and CCL members, will give businesses as well as individuals motivation to spend money differently – spend less on products and fuels that contain carbon, more on products and fuels that don't. They also point out that a rising fee on carbon would provide renewable fuels with a level playing field, and would stimulate innovation in a variety of related fields.
The added costs consumers would pay, with a carbon fee in place, would not be great (especially if compared to the high costs everyone will face if no corrective action is taken). Nonetheless, CCL's plan would return all the money raised by the fee to American households, thereby offsetting any higher consumer costs.
British Columbia initiated a carbon fee plan in 2008. Since then the province has experienced a 15.1% drop in fuel consumption and a 9.9% decline in greenhouse gas emissions. The fee has remained revenue neutral (has actually resulted in a net benefit for taxpayers) and the GDP has been unaffected. Finland, Sweden, Great Britain, New Zealand, Quebec, Australia and Ireland have initiated carbon fees or variations on the plan.
There are hundreds of Citizens Climate Lobby chapters now across the United States, as well as in Canada and a few other countries. Now there is one more CCL chapter: our own Inland Valley Citizens Climate Lobby branch had its start-up gathering May 31. Inland Valley CCL will meet the first Saturday of every month at the Monte Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 9185 Monte Vista Ave in Montclair. You are welcome to come. You can contact Ann Schranz, group convener, at 909-946-4939.
Demystifying Sustainability is an initiative of Sustainable Claremont (sustainableclaremont.org).