Opinion: It’s time to take action on climate change

By KATHARINE GAGE

Published: 09-03-2023 8:00 AM

Katharine Gage of Windham is a sophomore at Bowdoin College and volunteer for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

After having a hip injury for the past two years, I finally made it to the summit of Mt. Kearsarge last week. There were only a few small clouds, and it should have been a beautiful day. But instead of the clear, bright blue sky I remembered from the summits of the thirty 4,000 footers I hiked before getting injured, the sky was blue-gray and hazy — a reminder of the record Canadian wildfires and the path our Earth is on to a dangerous future.

Adults have always told me that they worry about what the world will be like when I am their age, and I saw it as a far-off problem. But I’m only 20 now, and climate impacts are already hitting hard, harder and faster than it seems like most of us expected. And it’s only going to get worse.

Global warming from greenhouse gas emissions does not happen immediately when greenhouse gasses are released, so even if we stop burning all fossil fuels right now, we will still experience further warming and its consequences. Additionally, the observed warming is not directly proportional to the amount of fossil fuels we burn, because Earth feedback systems can amplify warming completely out of our control.

For example, as the permafrost melts due to human-caused warming, it releases methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas that causes further warming. The exact extent of these feedback loops is unknown, but it is very clear that we have to stop adding greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere as soon as possible.

The most effective solution is to implement a cash-back carbon price at the national level. By making the upfront cost of fossil fuels better reflect the true costs of the damages they will cause later on, this policy would put the U.S. on a path to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which is the widely accepted climate target set by both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and President Biden.

Returning all the money collected from the carbon price to households on an equal, per-capita basis ensures that people are financially protected during the transition to clean energy. A carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) can be used to charge our carbon price on imports from other countries that do not have a matching carbon price in place, which incentivizes global carbon pricing while protecting the competitiveness of U.S. businesses in the global market.

Cash-back carbon pricing is a powerful win-win solution that is necessary for a relatively safe climate future. As Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says, “We cannot solve the climate crisis without effective carbon pricing.” The good news is, a cash-back carbon pricing bill is set to be re-introduced in Congress soon. Please ask Senator Shaheen, Senator Hassan, Representative Kuster, and Representative Pappas to cosponsor the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.

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