Thirty years ago, James Hansen, NASA climate scientist, testified before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the earth was warming, and “it is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.” The conclusion at that time was that if we keep burning fossil fuels and pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we will alter the global climate in a manner that will change life on earth for centuries to come. Senators on the committee and scientists agreed that an international agreement was needed to slow the pace of climate change.

That same year, 1988, the final declaration at a global climate conference in Toronto, Canada, claimed that the consequences of inaction would be second only to those of global nuclear war.

Here we are 30 years later with many global climate conferences under our belt. The climate science has coalesced and models have gotten more accurate. Hansen’s predictions from 1988 are not only being realized but in many cases they are happening faster. Five of the hottest years on record occurred since 2010.

The news this week reported by the International Energy Agency is that “the use of coal, oil and natural gas increased 1.4 percent globally in 2017 after holding steady for the previous three years.”

Clearly volunteerism on an international level is not working.

Locally, Brunswick Landing announced funding for a 4,500- panel solar farm, which will eliminate 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions every year and generate 13 percent of Brunswick Landing’s power needs. Bowdoin College has an impressive solar farm at Brunswick Landing and townspeople have built a solar farm on Crystal Spring Farm.

In Mount Desert Island, businesses, towns and community members are working to make the island energy independent by 2030.

In 2008 and 2009, Bath and Brunswick authored climate plans outlining the local and statewide impacts and risks from climate change. Both municipalities quantified the carbon emissions generated by their governments — schools, town buildings, police cars, etc. for the purpose of lowering those emissions over time. Ten years later, both communities are dusting off their plans and beginning the process of updating them.

Some companies, municipalities, colleges, hospitals are looking at reducing carbon footprints. Action on a local level is good, but it is piecemeal and is not enough.

Mount Desert Island may not emit carbon dioxide in 2030 but it will still be down wind from Midwest coal-fired power plants.

What can we do? One hundred years ago Arthur Pigou, an economist proposed a simple, market-driven solution to pollution. If your activity is producing a bad externally, let’s say pollution, then the government should put a tax on it so you produce less.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a world-wide, nonpartisan organization whose one focus is to pass federal and global legislation for a revenue-neutral, steadily-rising carbon fee and dividend. The carbon fee would be charged on all fossil fuels entering the economy and prices of products and activities that use fossil fuels would increase. People would buy less of the higher-priced products. Investors would look for alternative energy opportunities and our economy would shift from dirty to cleaner energy. The revenues collected from fossil fuel sources would be returned to individuals and families on a per capita basis to shield lower and middle-income citizens from the pain of increased prices due to the carbon fee.

Studies of the proposed carbon fee and dividend show a sharp reduction in carbon emissions quickly: 30 percent reduction in 10 years and 50 percent reduction in 20 years.

There is a cost but there is a greater cost to inaction or ineffectual, piecemeal action.

The beauty of the carbon fee is that it can be implemented globally. All countries agree on one price and there is no squabbling about uneven efforts. We need an enforced international pact to solve this problem, which is second only to global nuclear war.

We need to tell our legislators, Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin, that the consequences of continuing to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere are untenable. It is time to show some leadership and pass Carbon Fee and Dividend.

In 30 years, I do not want my grandchildren asking, “You knew about this problem for how long and you did nothing?”

Dodie Jones is a member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby — Bath-Brunswick Chapter.

She lives in Brunswick.



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