Las Vegas Sun

May 21, 2019

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Guest column:

Climate solution must be bipartisan

With extreme weather events taking place around the globe and insurance claims stacking up into the billions, there is a growing push to try to mitigate the effects of climate change.

A recent industry study found that in 2016, there were 750 major “loss events” like earthquakes, storms and heat waves, well above the 10-year annual average of 590. Analytics firm CoreLogic has found that 6.9 million homes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are at risk of damage from hurricane storm surge that could cost more than $1.5 trillion.

Here in Nevada, our major climate-related issue is severe ongoing drought, but many of us have friends and family in other states who have become climate refugees, forced to leave their homes because of climate disasters.

Meanwhile, the 100,000-member grassroots organization Citizens’ Climate Lobby has offered a positive and hopeful solution for mitigating climate change. The organization wants to make climate change a bridge issue, not a wedge issue.

“We have bet the ranch for years that the only lasting solution is bipartisan, and that therefore you had to have Republican leadership,” said Mark Reynolds, executive director of the nonpartisan Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Further, he said, “If there’s one issue that shouldn’t be partisan, it’s climate change. Solutions like pricing carbon have to be bipartisan in order to be sustainable over the long term. That can’t happen if either party pushes the other away from the table by making it a wedge issue. Let’s make it a bridge issue.”

Businesses are paying attention. They know that eventually, they could be profoundly affected by climate change, but what’s surprising is how quickly the shifts, threats, and costs are materializing. One example is the insurance industry, which is being remade by climate change and is imposing huge premium hikes for Americans in order to cover its losses. In some places such as condominiums in California, people can’t purchase fire or flood insurance. In the Florida Keys, flood insurance is getting so expensive that many residents are selling their homes and leaving because they can’t afford it.

CCL’s sole focus is to support a nonpartisan free-market climate policy that Democrats, the GOP, independents, progressives and conservatives alike can rally around. The plan is called carbon fee and dividend, and is revenue neutral. That means carbon dioxide emitters pay a fee that is collected by the government, but the money — the dividend — unlike a tax, goes to consumers instead of staying in the Treasury. The group believes “that America needs a consensus climate solution that bridges partisan divides, strengthens our economy and protects our shared environment.”

The number of Republicans who want to address climate change is growing both on Capitol Hill and at the grassroots level. Craig Preston, a member of the CCL’s “conservative caucus,” said there has been a “five-fold increase” in caucus members. Just two years ago, the caucus stood at 80 members. Now it has 500 members.

On Capitol Hill, the House Climate Solutions Caucus has grown in the past year after being established in early 2017. The caucus is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, with 84 members as of June. The bipartisan caucus is headed by its founders, Reps. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla.

Republicans Howard Baker III and George Schulz have proposed a carbon fee and dividend plan that now has an advocacy campaign supported by the recent launch of Americans for Carbon Dividends. The project is co-chaired by former Republican Sen. Trent Lott and former Democratic Sen. John Breaux. Former Fed chairs Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen are among those who have joined the effort. AFCD also has backing from major funders who will provide a seven-figure budget for the group to buy advertising and support candidates who back the carbon dividends plan.

“It’s exciting to see that our friends at the Climate Leadership Council have launched this new initiative,” said CCL’s Mark Reynolds. “With the support of Americans for Carbon Dividends, the political will for a bipartisan solution to climate change will continue to grow and eventually reach the critical mass necessary to put a price on carbon with revenue returned to households.”

With growing national support for carbon fee and dividend, the outlook for mitigating climate change is hopeful. What can the average citizen do? Check for more information, and contact your members of Congress. Let them know you’re a constituent and a voter, and you support a carbon fee and dividend plan. Climate change affects us all, but by bridging our differences, together we can change its course.

Rita Ransom is a retired science teacher and retired Southwest Gas administrator who worked on energy efficiency and conservation programs. Jon Becker is a retired environmental engineer.