Do you worry about climate change like I do? Do you despair it won’t stop in time to save our coastal cities, the coral reefs, New England’s famous maple trees, polar bears, etc? Me too. But there is a solution, and I think you will want to be part of it.
This solution will come from Congress passing “carbon fee and dividend” legislation. But the initiative will come from us – citizen lobbyists, organized as Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL). Recognizing the need for Republican support for any climate change legislation, CCL has taken several steps. First, it promoted the creation of the new congressional Climate Solutions Caucus where bi-partisan discussion of climate change can begin to take place, and insisted that no Democrat could join it without a Republican partner. Already there are 20 members of this caucus, ten from each party, and they favor the carbon fee and dividend solution.
Second, it proposes that a “fee” be imposed on fossil fuels as they come out of the ground, and that the money thus collected be returned back to every tax-payer in the country, making it a “revenue neutral” proposal. This dividend will offset the rise in fossil fuel prices that will result when extraction companies raise prices to recover the money they paid in fees.
Third, CCL carefully trains each of us who want to join the annual lobby day. I was one of 1000 citizen lobbyists this past June. I did not start out feeling good about this project. I had lobbied before and didn’t like it. I went to Washington this time because a friend whom I admire did a good job of recruiting me. Then when I got to the pre-lobby conference, the cheer-leading enthusiasm of the other participants was over the top. I felt like I was at a party I was not going to enjoy-- until I began to hear the values that were making people cheer. “Put relationships first.” “Find common ground no matter how unlikely you think it is.” “Ask questions before giving answers.” “Connect.” “Practice relentless optimism.” “We are all one people inhabiting one planet.”
Values and cheers, however, are not enough to stop climate change. (When I say “stop”, you know what I mean. It is already happening, but we have to stop contributing to it.) CCL is organized into local chapters, covering all 435 congressional districts. Once a year members go to D.C. where appointments have been set up with every Congressional office, usually with a staffer. I learned the power of entering a Congressional office seeking relationship and common ground before asking for anything. If I left with just the relationship, I was closer to my goal.
CCL does not tell the fossil fuel industry how it should redirect its resources, but if a company wants to stay with energy production, then renewable energy is clearly an option. And, by returning the dividend to each tax-payer, it does not funnel the money into a government entity such as the EPA, as this would not garner Republican support.. Also in its favor the carbon fee and dividend solution corrects the failure of the market to charge fossil fuel extractors for the damage they have caused to our atmosphere. As it is now they are allowed to pollute for free.
This is one key strategy to stop the use of fossil fuels, and it needs your support. In addition to spreading the word about carbon fee and dividend legislation, or joining a local chapter of CCL, we must act creatively on other levels, including doing acts of civil disobedience to stop the machinery of extraction. What can be more important than trying to save the planet that we all share? The Ashfield Chapter of CCL meets the second Saturday of every month at noon at the Congregational Church in Ashfield.