This first appeared in the Panama City Herald
A rash of turbocharged weather events has convinced most Americans that the climate is changing. Now, a recent report, the National Climate Assessment, documents climate change as an immediate threat. And a new bill in Congress proposes to pay for it in a unique way that will, at worst, be breakeven for most taxpayers.
Several Florida scientists described the report in a recent conference call with reporters.
Todd Sack, a Jacksonville physician and environmentalist, said warmer weather means that mosquitoes will thrive and spread diseases such as Zika, West Nile and dengue. Allergies will worsen, and so will asthma. Children, the elderly and the frail will be most affected.
The costs of extreme weather can be substantial.
For instance, costs from Hurricane Michael could top $4.5 billion, according to forecasting service CoreLogic. Economies that rely on favorable climate conditions such as tourism and agriculture — hello, Florida — will be hard-hit.
While those on the Florida coasts are feeling the most impacts with flooding on sunny days, the impacts will cascade everywhere, said Andrea Dutton, an assistant professor of geology at the University of Florida. While a certain amount of warming is already baked into the atmosphere, it’s essential that action be taken so it doesn’t become worse.
“The cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of action,” Dutton said. “The biggest challenge we face is that global warming is seen as a partisan issue when really it’s not. It will affect all of us. This is about self-preservation, about how humans will continue to survive and adapt in a rapidly changing climate.”
Now, a new bipartisan proposal has been released in Congress, with three Democrats and three Republicans sponsoring the bill.
The proposal is a tax on carbon that will be returned entirely to consumers.
That will encourage the economy to use less carbon while not penalizing citizens at the same time. This should create millions of new jobs, promote energy innovation, improve public health and lower health care costs, all while driving down carbon emissions.
The bill is ambitious because it has to be, but it’s also realistic, said Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat who is among the bill’s co-sponsors.
“When you can bring together Democrats and Republicans around an urgent issue like climate change we can actually move to address it,” Deutch said.
The carbon tax will reduce carbon emissions by up to 45 percent in 12 years and 90 percent by 2050. Of fees collected, 100 percent of the net revenue will be returned to consumers as a monthly dividend, giving lower- and middle-income families an increase on after-tax income.
If we don’t act now, we’re nearing a point of no return when it comes to the environment, our health and our economy.
We cannot let climate change become a runaway train. We’ve got to put on the brakes, which the legislation will start to do.