The Best Way to Avert Massive Climate Risks

Our children are set to inherit a world of increasingly dire climate risks.

You can protect them, while helping cultivate a thriving US economy.

The costs of a changing climate won't just be paid in a distant future - they are starting to come due now, from drowning Miami Beach to Western Russia, where a climate change-amplified heat wave in 2010 more than 50,000 people dead.

Beyond extreme weather events, human-induced climate change may bring a host of other threats, like more frequent conflicts, crippled infrastructure and lower economic productivity.

It's worth reflecting now - as I have with the recent birth of my daughter: Is this the future you want to create?

Luckily, we know the best way to mitigate emissions-driven climate risks.

We need to tax carbon emissions now, and return the money to American families.

You can help ensure our elected officials pass a carbon tax and safeguard our children:

  • Support legislators exploring smart carbon tax solutions - like Florida Republican Carlos Curbelo - co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus, or Maryland Democrat John Delaney, sponsor of the 2015 Tax Pollution, Not Profits bill
  • Get active in growing nonpartisan national grassroots organizations like the Citizens' Climate Lobby (you can find your local chapter here)
  • Carbon taxes are endorsed by economists across the political spectrum, from Greg Mankiw - the chairman of George Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, to Joseph Stiglitz, who served in the same role for Bill Clinton. A well-designed carbon tax would be relatively simple to implement, fair, impactful, and a catalyst for clean private sector innovation.

    The ideas behind a carbon tax are gaining traction in both major American political parties, driven by wider recognition of climate change's consequences, and accumulating evidence of the benefits a carbon tax could have for our climate and our economy. This growing support was particularly clear in last year's climate change resolution, sponsored by House Republican Chris Gibson.

    At the same time, a look abroad shows dozens of governments implementing similar climate change policies. A carbon tax is not only critical to protecting future generations, but essential to building American firms that are globally competitive in an era of energy industry transformation.

    Your support for smart climate policy matters more than ever

    I had heard about the potential risks from our emissions since I was young, and felt concern as I saw carbon concentrations in our atmosphere grow to levels far higher than any time in the last 800,000 years.

    I had witnessed weather events that are difficult to picture in a climate not changed by our emissions - from one monumental drought in California, to another one in the Middle East - the worst in monitored history, that helped destabilize the region ahead of political uprisings in 2010 / 2011.

    But I only really felt the urgency of climate action when my daughter was born.

    As a parent, I experienced a new appreciation of what it means to manage risk. Like millions of families, my wife and I thought urgently about our long-term financial future, contemplating concepts like life insurance and college savings accounts.

    Looking at the growing evidence of climate change's impacts, I feared the future my daughter and her peers would face. At the same time, I could see the massive potential benefits of smart climate policy, enacted now.

    I recognized that smart action on climate change was like buying a critical insurance policy for pennies on the dollar, and that the smartest immediate action would be passing a carbon tax.

    According to economists at two leading research groups, a carbon tax with rebated fees could generate upwards of $20 billion in annual net benefits in the US by 2020. Other research (from the Brookings Institution and the conservative American Enterprise Institute) suggests that poor households could be compensated for any regressive impact from a carbon tax using even just 11 percent of its revenue.

    A carbon tax could help transform our economy and support innovative clean technology, without asking government officials to 'pick winners' in complex markets.

    The time is right to pass a carbon tax

    The links between increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and a changing climate were first identified in 1895. Since then, the evidence of our impact on the global climate has grown more compelling with each year, just as once disputed connections between smoking and lung cancer ultimately became broadly recognized.

    Fortunately, politicians from every party are starting to recognize this evidence, and the risks that climate change poses to the country. More and more, they are also realizing that sound climate policy is highly compatible with innovation, free markets, and economic growth. Mainstream Republicans and think tanks that formerly questioned the existence of emissions-linked climate change are now looking for options to efficiently mitigate climate risks.

    Answers to 'why' we should reduce carbon emissions are clear - our country is ready to think about 'how'.

    US politicians also note the agressive steps that many world powers are taking to reduce emissions. The world's biggest emitter - China, is setting a price on carbon with new standards and emissions credit trading, joining industrial leader South Korea and 37 other countries with carbon cap-and-trade systems.

    These countries understand the benefits that market-based emissions policies can provide - as shown in Canada's British Columbia, where a carbon tax initiated in 2008 has substantially reduced emissions since, while the province grew its economy more rapidly than the rest of the country. Even the energy-rich Canadian province of Alberta is looking to follow British Columbia with its own carbon tax.

    In this election year, it's time to remind politicians that our country also needs a national carbon tax - our critical next step for a safer future.