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Guest View: About the Citizens’ Climate LobbyPrint

Clean Energy | June 15, 2015 | By Elizabeth Dell

Guest View: About the Citizens’ Climate Lobby

CCL members lobbied Washington lawmakers in June 2013 for a carbon tax. Northwest Michigan's delegation (left to right)--Kelly Lively, Mary O'Neil, Annie Lively, Elizabeth Dell, Lisa Del Buono, and Maura Brennan--met with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (center).

On June 23, 1988, Dr. James Hansen, a leading climate scientist, told a U.S. Senate committee that “the Earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements… there is only a 1 percent chance of an accidental warming of this magnitude.”

In the years since, climate scientists have accumulated a body of research so extensive and definitive in its results that today, 97% of climate scientists are convinced, based upon the evidence, that human-caused global warming is happening.

The intervening years of inaction have only compounded the problem, yet I’m more hopeful than ever that meaningful action is imminent. Why? Many reasons, but in no small part due to how I’ll be spending the 27-year anniversary of Dr. Hansen’s testimony: lobbying for climate change solutions on Capitol Hill along with 800 other Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers from across the country, including 30 from Michigan.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change. Many leading climate scientists and economists assert that the best first-step to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic climate change from global warming is to enact Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation.  Here are the basics:

  1. A fee is placed on carbon-based fuels at the source – well, mine, port of entry etc.
  2. This fee starts at $15 per ton of CO2 emitted, and increases steadily each year by $10.
  3. All of the money collected is returned to American households equally on a per-capita basis.
  4. A border tariff is applied to all countries without similar legislation.

Placing a price on carbon, with full revenue return and border adjustments, will do four things: internalize the social costs of carbon-based fuels, drastically reduce carbon emissions, stimulate the economy, and incentivize other countries to adopt similar legislation.

Many argue that a carbon tax would be bad for the economy—but it depends on how it’s structured. A June 2014 study by the internationally recognized Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI), examined the effect of a progressive fee and dividend carbon tax, starting at $10 per ton of CO2 on the U.S. economy. The study compared these results to the baseline case where there is no price on carbon. REMI found that after 10 years, CO2 emissions would decrease by 33 percent, 2.1 million jobs would be created, and 13,000 premature deaths from air pollution would be prevented annually.

Yes, we have a climate crisis, but we also have a solution to begin mitigating it. The next step is getting Congress to act. At CCL, we believe that politicians don’t create political will; they respond to it. CCL volunteers are creating the political will by giving presentations; writing letters to Congress, letters to the editor and op-eds; meeting with editorial boards to seek their endorsement; and meeting with influential leaders, organizations and businesses in our communities. We believe citizens who are well-trained and provided with a strong support system can help change the course of history.

A lot of people seem to agree. CCL has expanded from fewer than 20 chapters in the U.S. and Canada five years ago to 266 in eight countries today, and we grow every month. This allows us to build relationships with elected officials around the world and lobby them to support our proposal. Our one rule sets us apart: Always start from a place of respect, appreciation and gratitude for their service. Last June at our annual conference in Washington, D.C., more than 600 volunteers met with over 500 congressional offices. We have been told this is the most volunteer lobbyists ever to meet with Congress in one day. An additional 500 meetings took place throughout 2014.

With our Pathway to Paris program, CCL is taking a leadership role in developing a global strategy to move the world to price carbon at the Paris climate talks later this year. The initiative is bringing stakeholders into the process of decision-making, building connections between organizations, governments, individuals and enterprise, and mounting a coalition effort to secure an agreement to motivate carbon pricing country by country.

Time is running out. We must act now to preserve a livable world for our children and their children. Please show your support by joining CCL—no membership fees required, just your contact information is needed. You can also find out if we have a chapter near you. If not, please contact me to see about starting one!

Elizabeth Dell is CCL’s State Coordinator for Michigan and co-leader of the Traverse City Chapter. You can reach her at michigan@citizensclimatelobby.org