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Last year at the end of October, UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller, who formerly had been skeptical that the earth was warming, concluded his own ($600,000) two-year study (partially funded to the tune of $150,000 by the Koch brothers), undertaken to determine for himself whether or not climate change is real. His findings showed that the world’s surface temperature has risen 1.6 degrees Farenheit (1 degree Celcius) since the 1950s, a finding that corroborated earlier findings of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and NASA. This temperature increase is largely due to the high levels of carbon that are dumped into our atmosphere each and every day. Scientists tell us that the acceptable upper limit of carbon in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. Presently that number is in the 392 range and rising all the time (prior to the Industrial Revolution it hovered around 275).
In large part, our elevated carbon levels are due to our hopeless addiction to a fossil fuel economy where moneyed, corporate interests pull the strings of Republican puppets in Congress, blocking any serious hope of energy reform given that their addiction to this dirty oil money is as appalling as the average taxpayer’s passivity in the face of it. In November of last year, findings published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an esteemed United Nations panel that periodically reviews ongoing developments in climate research, reported that some of the extreme weather around the world is a consequence of human-induced climate change, and we can expect these severe weather patterns to worsen in the years ahead. These patterns include more record-breaking temperatures, increased coastal flooding, and greater extremes of precipitation in general. Compounding the severity of this IPCC assessment, the U.S. Energy Department recently reported that greenhouse gas emissions jumped by the highest rate ever in 2010.
Newsflash to parents and grandparents: If we continue dumping carbon into the environment at our present rate, our children and our children’s children will face a variety of devastating environmental, humanitarian and economic catastrophes, which will rock their world and render it unrecognizable. What can we do for them now so that this doesn’t happen? How can we lower carbon emissions so that these potential catastrophes, which we have propelled willy-nilly into forward motion, are averted?
On October 25, 2011, Democratic congressman Pete Stark of California introduced the Save Our Climate Act (H.R. 3242), which eight House Democrats have signed on to co-sponsor. H.R. 3242 would tax carbon emissions at the first point of sale or import at a rate of $10 a ton of CO2 for the first year. This fee would continue to rise by $10/per emission ton annually, until the target goal of 20 percent of 1990 CO2 emissions is reached—estimated to be by the year 2050. It is projected that $2.6 trillion would be generated in the first 10 years, $490 billion of which would go toward paying down the federal deficit and the remainder returned to American citizens in the form of an annual dividend from the IRS ($160 the first year, $1,170 10 years out).
Under this plan, everybody wins. The environment wins because it is no longer a free and open sewer for polluters; the American citizen wins in the form of money refunded to them from the government; and the government wins in that the deficit is reduced.
Nelson Mandela said, “We know what needs to be done—all that is missing is the will to do it.” Do we have the will to take our climate back from the rapacious polluters and their greedy, collaborating cronies in Congress? When you look at your children and your children’s children, ask yourself if you have what it takes to do what needs to be done.
And if you don’t . . . what will you tell the children?
Anne Dillon lives in Waitsfield.