This is about our own lives and the future of everyone and everything we care about.
When I was in Washington, DC in June I witnessed a heartbreaking presentation by a young man from the Republic of Kiribati. I was in DC with 35 other citizens from Colorado and over 1,200 others from across the country, all of us as volunteers with the nonpartisan Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). The young man delivered his presentation during the conference that preceded our lobby day on the Hill. His country, Kiribati, is a Pacific island nation that right now is being submerged under the rising ocean. He showed us videos of what is happening, then finished by saying, “We just want the world to know that we were once here.”
Because I grew up just a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean and had often seen its ferocity on stormy days, I had no trouble imagining the devastation that he and his people are experiencing. I had visited my home state after Superstorm Sandy and had seen the collapsed houses, the chewed-up roads, and the places where acres of beach had been entirely sucked into the ocean. This was happening to his entire country, to his people.
I never thought I would be a lobbyist, or fly to Washington DC to meet face-to-face with senators and representatives, including members of Colorado’s delegation. I’m just an ordinary guy. But a few years ago, as I was becoming increasingly concerned about the trajectory of our climate, I discovered CCL (citizensclimatelobby.org). CCL empowers people like me to lobby for a livable climate in an appreciative, non-partisan way that supports democracy. We also write letters and seek out endorsements to build consensus across the political spectrum. So now I do all of that, together with volunteers from all across the country. I feel less alone… and more hopeful.
Nowadays, as the climate crisis tightens its chokehold on the planet, most of us don’t have to go very far to see the danger signals. If we haven’t experienced them firsthand, we know someone who has. My childhood best friend recently moved away from Norfolk, Virginia, where the headquarters of the Navy’s Atlantic fleet floods at least 10 times a year. Sea level at Norfolk has risen 14.5 inches in the century since the naval station was built.
You may have noticed that it has been hot. July 2019 was the hottest July on record for the globe, following the hottest June. Here in Colorado we face an arid future. Since 2000, the flows of the Colorado River have been 16% below the 20th-century average. Temperatures across the Colorado River Basin are now over 2 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average, and are certain to continue rising. This is on top of the devastating wildfires and floods exacerbated by climate change that we have already experienced.
The scariest part for me of the crisis is the near-term irreversibility of what we are doing to the planet. You know that if you make a mistake when typing on a computer, you can always click the “undo” button. But with climate, the changes that our carbon emissions have already baked into the system – even if we stop emitting now – will persist through the lives of our children and their children and theirs. In the short run we can’t “undo.” And in the longer run we can’t “undo” unless we stop “doing” in the first place.
This is why 1,200 of my closest friends and I were in Washington DC lobbying Congress to pass the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act – H.R. 763.
H.R. 763 will substantially reduce carbon pollution (40% in the first 12 years) while also putting a monthly dividend into American families’ pockets to spend as they see fit, thereby helping low- and middle-income Americans. It includes a border adjustment to ensure a level playing field for American businesses. It will create local jobs and can be a key building block for a just transition to a clean economy.
It’s not a “silver bullet” – unfortunately those don’t exist. But it does take a big bite out of the problem. This is why 45 top economists from across the political spectrum said in a recent column in the Wall Street Journal that a revenue-neutral carbon fee-and-dividend is the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions. This is why the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, whose members include Google, Apple, IBM, Microsoft and Facebook, “supports in principle” H.R. 763.
For the sake of everyone and everything you care about, please contact your congressperson and ask them to co-sponsor the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. Climate must be a bridge issue not a partisan wedge. Passing this act will lead to what we all want: a cleaner, healthier, safer world.
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