the Pacific Northwest is burning. We've seen lives lost and homes destroyed. This is no "once-in-a-lifetime" event. This is our future. Oregon State Climatologist Kathy Dello says, "the Future is now." A widespread drought two years in the making set the stage for these fires and OSU researchers report the Northwest can expect "warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers."
Regardless of our government's approach to managing federal timberlands, there is no question that its failure to address the international problem of carbon emissions and the resulting national problem of extreme weather events has contributed to our fire-ripe conditions. You can bail the boat, but it does no good if you don't plug the hole.
Congress pretends that there are no economic and social costs to continued reliance on fossil fuels for our energy needs. Yet, it's required to approve disaster declarations and continues appropriating firefighting funds that have major fiscal repercussions. Disaster relief for extreme weather events (wildfires, floods) cost U.S. taxpayers more than $100 billion in 2012 - more than the federal government spent on transportation or education. As citizens, we bear the costs.
Protesters hanging from bridges are not the only emissaries of this risky game. The Pentagon, in its 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, states that the effects of climate change could lead to acute food and water shortages, waves of destitute refugees and violent fights over dwindling natural resources - a likelihood that should be viewed as an immediate threat to U.S. national security. In fact, the U.S. Navy identifies climate change as the biggest long-term threat to security in the entire Pacific region.
All major oil companies accept the science of climate change and anticipate an emissions reduction strategy. ExxonMobil and Shell assume the imposition of a carbon tax in their business forecasts. In a study released last week, banking giant Citigroup took an unbiased look at the economics of not acting on climate change and delivered staggering numbers - by 2060, failure to act will impact GDP by $44 trillion.
Whomever you listen to, the action is clear. We need to transition to a clean energy economy as soon as possible. But, how do we do that without harming our economy?
There's a simple and elegant solution. It increases our energy security, reduces our long-term national security risk and boosts the economy. It's called "carbon fee and dividend," whereby a fee is assessed at the wellhead, pipe, or mine based on the extracted carbon content, is increased each year - and all the proceeds from the fee are returned directly to the American people. This dividend isn't money for governments to spend. It goes into taxpayers' pockets.
Such a policy was studied by Regional Economic Modeling Inc, an econometric modeling firm specializing in analyzing the effects of tax policy. REMI estimates that the enormous stimulative effects of millions of people receiving dividend checks every month would result in 2.1 million more jobs nationally by 2025. Any plan to limit CO2 emissions will penalize fossil fuel producers, but under this plan the overall economy will grow because every consumer's purchasing power will increase.
The point is that reflecting the real costs - social and economic - into the price of fossil fuels will decrease their usage. And that also is a net plus - an estimated 33 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2025 and 52 percent by 2035.
A safer, less-scorched Oregon will be nice, too.
About the authors
Barry Daigle is a former U.S. Marine and current math teacher. His great-grandparents were original settlers in the Baker City area and cousins still live and ranch there. He is a member of the Citizens' Climate Lobby Conservative Caucus. Daniela Brod is the Co-Lead of the Portland Chapter of the Citizens' Climate Lobby. Both are Portland residents.