A Conservative Climate Plan

Daily News-Record, April 1, 2017
Leslie Grady, Opinion (Open Forum)

cc_cover-222x300On Feb. 8, a delegation of Republican elder statesmen met with White House officials to propose a radical idea. They represented the Climate Leadership Council, and their idea was simple: because Republicans won the presidency and both houses of Congress, they now own the problem of climate change and must act on it. Why did they do this and what did they propose?

The why: Climate change is progressing more rapidly than many had expected, with increasingly severe costs, both human and economic. The human costs range from loss of life, through destruction of property, to long-term impacts on health and well-being. The economic costs range from loss of property, through decreases in labor productivity, to decline in agricultural yields. Just as we buy insurance to minimize the economic impacts of fires, auto collisions, and health catastrophes, immediate action against climate change is insurance against the greater losses that will occur without action.

The what: a conservative climate solution, called the Carbon Dividends Plan. According to the Climate Leadership Council, “any climate solution should be based on sound economic analysis and embody the principles of free markets and limited government.” Furthermore, “such a plan could strengthen our economy, benefit working-class Americans, reduce regulations, protect our natural heritage and consolidate a new era of Republican leadership. These benefits accrue regardless of one’s views on climate science.”

The plan has four components.

A gradually increasing tax on CO2 emissions: The tax would be imposed at the first point where fossil fuels enter the economy, meaning the mine, well, or port-of-entry. The tax would increase steadily over time, sending a signal to businesses and consumers that CO2 emissions must be reduced, encouraging innovation.

Carbon dividends for all Americans: The proceeds from the carbon tax would be returned to the American people on an equal and quarterly tax-free basis, making it revenue-neutral. These dividends would increase the disposable income of most Americans, while particularly helping those struggling to make ends meet.

Border carbon adjustments: Exporters to countries without comparable systems would receive rebates for carbon taxes paid, while importers from such countries would face fees on the carbon content of their products. This would protect American competitiveness and punish free-riding by other nations.

Significant regulatory rollback: Regulations such as those in the Clean Power Plan would no longer be necessary upon enactment of a rising carbon tax, and thus could be eliminated.

Importantly, everyone must give up something for the plan to be enacted. Republicans must give up their reluctance to accept climate science. Democrats must give up their reliance on regulation and trust in the free market. Nongovernmental organizations must stop dividing people into enemies and friends. All must work together to achieve a strong economy in a clean environment. If we can do that, we will all be winners.

Write or call Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. Ask them to help us adopt of the Carbon Dividends Plan.

Dr. Grady is a retired environmental engineering professor. He lives in Harrisonburg.