Thank you, Gov. Brad Little for the courage to come out and admit what a lot of people see but deny. “Climate is changing.” The governor’s observation made no claim about the cause or the cure and proposed no elaborate regulations. He just called it with the resilient common-sense urgency of the prairie. “We’ve got to figure a way to cope with it.”
Just as the governor was speaking from his own experience on the family farm, I also see climate change in a deeply personal way.
Since retirement, I have volunteered for deployment to weather-related disasters in a dozen states. Yes, we’ve had record fires and record storms in the past, but never, ever anything like what I’ve seen in the ferocity and number of wildfires, tornados, hurricanes and floods, proliferating one record year after another. The media report these things briefly, but what goes unreported is the years of hardship after each event, or the way the effects pile up, destroy communities and erode their economic bases. This is no longer a few wealthy people in vulnerable places. This is tens, hundreds of thousands of ordinary working people losing everything in areas never before touched by such events.
Climate change for me was standing with the raw heat of wildfire on my face, my arm around a single mother as we watched flames devour everything she owned. My experience of climate change is picking through the soaked trash of flood-ruined homes or sitting with local community leaders, hiring case managers, applying for grants, organizing volunteers in Washington, Idaho, California, Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. My experience with climate change is the taste of soot in my mouth and the smell of mold in boarded-up houses. This is not just something that might happen sometime. It’s today. It’s real. It’s in the U.S. and around the world.
Just like our governor, I’m not going to sit around and despair, blame or worry. Like people did when they saw disaster coming on the prairie, I want to figure out what I can do to help my neighbors cope.
It is pure common sense that carbon fuels like natural gas, coal and oil contribute to the problem. Simple, repeatable observations tell us that cutting the use of these fuels perhaps will not solve the problem but will absolutely help. The big question is how to change away from these fuels without killing jobs or tying us up in regulations. That is why I’ve committed to working to promote a simple bipartisan bill called Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividends.
This proposal developed by Citizen’s Climate Lobby has been introduced into Congress by members of both parties and would require producers of carbon fuel to pay a gradually increasing dividend to the people. That’s right, equally to every citizen. Simple as that.
But here’s how it works. You and I get some money in the pocket and that helps the economy. As the costs of carbon fuels gradually increase, both big industry and households will want to save money by moving away from carbon-based fuels and products. Yet they’ll be free to innovate and find their own ways to make those changes. Better than regulations, this will use the free market itself to reduce carbon fuels. Unlike a tax, this doesn’t give money to the government but to the consumers to help us with the higher costs. The proposal creates economic balance at the border by importers paying to the dividend and exporters getting rebates. That keeps U.S. products competitive and jobs at home.
Across the country chapters of CCL are educating the public, building bilateral, non-partisan support, and many major industries including even oil companies are endorsing the idea because they see the need.
I know some people love debating the cause of climate change but I’d rather do something. If most of the world’s scientists are wrong and this all goes away on its own, great. We will have created ways to draw free power from wind, sun and tide, and become less dependent on oil countries and their wars. Plus the dividend will give some money back to consumers and that will be better for the economy anyway. No harm. But, if what I see and what a lot of others measure does turn out to be happening, then we will have bought a little time for our children and grandchildren and their neighbors to cope and adapt to a tough new reality. Having enjoyed this life as I have, I owe it to those generations to try to tilt the playing field at least a little less against them.
Find out more by Googling Citizen’s Climate Lobby, or come to a one-hour public educational event, Monday, Feb. 18, from 6 to 7 downstairs at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library. If you can’t come to that, log on to their page or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a lot to consider about this or any proposal, but here at last is a way to start doing something. Please think about exploring this with us.
Mike Bullard is a Coeur d’Alene resident, author, singer and retired minister.