This Opinion/Editorial is solely the opinion of its author(s).
It does not reflect the opinion of this newspaper.
We intend to present messages from both sides of the aisle.
Mark Reynolds and Scott Simmons
In our recent elections in 2020, we witnessed broad based support for action on climate change. Candidates on both side of the aisle called for a renewed focus on climate change.
Climate change legislation, once considered politically risky, now strikes a winning chord.
As we know, the Congress is currently very evenly split and neither party has complete control across the federal government. President Biden will govern alongside a Democratic House, a conservative Supreme Court, and an evenly divided Senate. That makes “working together” the order of the day.
Encouragingly, Biden understands that people of any party can and do care about climate change. In a speech this fall, he said, “Hurricanes don’t swerve to avoid red states or blue states. Wildfires don’t skip towns that voted a certain way. The impacts of climate change don’t pick and choose. It’s not a partisan phenomenon, and our response should be the same.”
Some Republicans in the Senate are expressing similar opinions. In October 2020, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) participated in a climate policy webinar with her climate-hawk colleague, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). She noted that bipartisanship gives a policy longevity, so she said, “Let’s work in a way that is going to get the support that you need from both Republicans and Democrats.”
Our leaders here in Colorado are signaling their readiness to work on climate change, too.
Congressman Ken Buck (CO District 4) was quoted as saying “I think the GOP should be and is a leader in producing safe, clean energy and reducing carbon emissions in this country.” (https://www.cpr.org/2020/08/26/despite-trumps-alarmism-colorado-gop-chair-rep-ken-buck-has-no-problem-with-mail-in-ballots/)
Similarly, in September Congressman Joe Neguse (CO District 2) said “Climate change is the existential threat of our time. Wildfires have burned over five million acres in Colorado, Oregon and California, including two massive fires in my district, the Cameron Peak Fire and the Williams Fork Fire. The science is clear: climate change is real and we have to do everything in our power to stop it.” (https://neguse.house.gov/media/press-releases/congressman-neguse-statement-on-climate-change-)
These notable voices are responding to an incredible swell of public demand for climate action. According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, the number of Americans who are “alarmed” about climate change has more than doubled in recent years, from 11 percent of Americans in 2015 to 26 percent in 2020. All told, 54 percent of Americans are either “alarmed” or “concerned” about climate change. Here in Colorado – a recent article in the Colorado Sun reported that “Polling among registered voters in Colorado done Sept. 11-15 for the Environmental Defense Action by Morning Consult shows that nearly three quarters say they are more concerned about the impacts of climate change in light of recent weather events like wildfires. Two-thirds say they are more likely to vote for a U.S. Senate candidate who backs aggressive climate action.” Colorado continues to reinforce a commitment to protecting our natural resources and our way of life living in the beautiful Rocky Mountain region.
Frankly, those numbers make sense. This year has made it starkly obvious that climate change is here and already hurting Americans. More than five million acres have burned across Western states this year, displacing thousands of people. We witnessed the worst wildfire season ever in Colorado history. In addition to the destruction of property, the associated health issues arising from these fires supports an examination of the interplay between fires and climate change (https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/20/colorado-largest-wildfire-history/) We need to move as quickly as we can to address the root cause of these extreme events: excess greenhouse gas emissions.
One fast-acting, effective climate policy we should enact is a carbon fee. Congress could charge a fee or price on all oil, gas and coal we use in the United States based on the greenhouse gas emissions they produce. Putting that price on pollution will steer our country toward cleaner options, slashing our harmful emissions across many areas of our economy at once. The revenue from this type of policy can even be given to Americans on a regular basis—a “carbon cashback,” if you will, that would put money in people’s pockets while we transition to a clean-energy economy.
Last year the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) received support from people and organizations across the political spectrum. Joe Neguse was a key sponsor of this important legislation as well as Representatives Ed Perlmutter and Jason Crow. Though H.R. 763 was not passed last year, we look forward to the re-submission of carbon dividend initiative by the new Congress.
Our community is ready for our Senators and Representatives to push forward to make this legislation the law of the land. With the incoming president clearly committed to addressing climate change, and millions of Americans eager for solutions, now is the time to act. Congress should seize the opportunity.
Mark Reynolds is the executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a non-partisan, grassroots advocacy organization working to generate the political will for a livable world. Scott Simmons is the co-leader for the Fort Collins Chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.