Joel Charles: Carbon fee offers road map for future

2013-03-18T00:45:00Z 2013-07-09T08:38:08Z Joel Charles: Carbon fee offers road map for futureBy Joel Charles | Milwaukee La Crosse Tribune
March 18, 2013 12:45 am  • 

Our climate is headed down a dangerous road, and the window is closing on our chance to turn back.

Research published this month in the respected journal Science confirmed we are rapidly leaving the stable temperature range within which human civilization developed during the past 11,000 years.

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that humans are causing this disruption, primarily through the burning of fossil fuels. Meanwhile evidence mounts that if we continue on this path, we will soon find there is no exit. We will be stuck on a road to irreversible warming.

Before we miss our last exit, let’s stop for a moment and look at a map that shows where this highway is taking us.

Our current route leads to uncertainty, instability and threatens human health. Warmer air holds more water, creating more heavy rainfall events and less light rain. Therefore a warming world not only has increased flooding from stronger storms but more severe droughts as well.

Residents of Gays Mills know all too well the price of flooding, and area farmers are certainly hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s drought.  Meanwhile, heat waves threaten the elderly and ill in our communities.

Climate change amplifies a broad range of health threats including water contamination, asthma and lung diseases, and the spread of infectious diseases such as the West Nile virus. These early signs of climate disruption are already upon us — like a road-sign saying “danger ahead.”

We can continue down this road, or we can exit now to a more prosperous, stable and healthy world. We can make our communities healthier immediately and save money by taking action to prevent climate change.

The burning of fossil fuels contribute to four of the five leading causes of death in the United States, including heart disease, cancer, stroke and lung diseases, while putting children at risk of asthma and delayed mental development.

Actions to avoid climate change will make us healthier now. It’s a win-win opportunity. We can avoid the worst danger and uncertainty of climate change while ending a health scourge that has existed for nearly 200  years, not to mention becoming a world leader in the rapidly growing clean-energy economy.

Our exit to a better world is blocked by a simple fact: The market price of fossil fuels do not reflect their true cost, making them appear cheap when they are not.

Your electricity bill does not reflect the cost of your asthmatic daughter’s visit to the emergency room. Your price at the pump does not reflect the financial and emotional cost of your father’s heart attack.

Researchers estimate that coal plants alone cause more than 13,000 deaths each year in the United States. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that each year in the U.S., the burning of fossil fuels causes $120 billion in mostly health-related damages.

Fossil fuels only seem cheap because we pay the price through poor health and higher insurance premiums. In effect, fossil fuels are subsidized by our health care system; however, there is a way to fix this market failure.

A revenue-neutral fee on carbon would open an exit to safety by making fossil fuels’ market price reflect their true cost to society. Carbon fee and dividend legislation would place a gradually rising fee on each ton of carbon dioxide a fuel will emit. To protect consumers from the temporary rise in energy prices, all revenue would be returned to citizens.

A border tax applied to all goods imported from nations without similar climate legislation would protect American manufacturing and jobs while pushing other countries to take action on climate change.

The directions are clear, let’s get moving. Contact your lawmakers and urge them to put us on the nearest exit by supporting carbon fee and dividend legislation.

Joel Charles is a member of Citizens Climate Lobby-Wisconsin, which will hold an introductory talk April 13 in La Crosse. For more information, email

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(43) Comments

  1. Mike Hammer
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    Mike Hammer - March 20, 2013 3:26 pm
    In this imaginary world you have moved into and nicely furnished with fantastic scenarios, U.S. becomes pristine and the world is a better place....oh, wait......China India and Russia decide not to the world is more polluted than ever and we can no longer compete on the global market. Instead of exploiting our rich resources of clean natural gas, we forfeit this to Russia who uses it to control Europe and hold them hostage for energy. So we gaze at our navels and windmills while Putin plays hammer-time with our allies. If you are going to advance your green hypothesis, think it out before you pontificate. This pimple-faced rhetoric does not help the discussion.
  2. Jefferson Paine
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    Jefferson Paine - March 20, 2013 11:11 am
    Our ability to drill into 10's of thousands of years of polar ice has been a far more helpful barometer of changing temps than anything else.

    There are trillions to be made in energy....period. Green, clean or fossil is big money. Let's have the government quit subsidizing 100 year old proven fossil fuels....that alone would make the greener and efficient energy tech far more competitive.

    Gravity is a theory......theories are best case scenarios. Most everyone with or without a stake in new energy agrees we have a warming planet and Man is not helping matters at all with our outrageous and toxic pollution of the fragile biosphere.

    Let's apply Dick Cheney's 1% Doctrine to climate change....if there is a 1% chance Man has had a negative impact then we must fully assault that threat by cleaning up our act.

  3. Mike Hammer
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    Mike Hammer - March 20, 2013 8:47 am
    Arrrgggggg! I despise getting drawn into arguments with someone riddled with logic flaws. But I must point out the obvious: Besides being a hard-core Nazi, Henry Ford did as much to dismantle our public transport as any human, morbidly increasing the amount of carbon spewing into the air (carbon being your alleged boogey man)

    Pick a side, any side...and stick to the facts for the sake of us peasants..
  4. Old Bowhunter
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    Old Bowhunter - March 19, 2013 5:27 pm
    Mr Paine, you use the new technology argument. So, how can we take temps taken with today's modern equipment and compare it to thermometers used in the 20s and 30s as a basis that average temps have risen a tenth or so of a degree? I doubt they where as accurate. I would suggest that as with most things you follow the money. There are trillions to be made and redistributed by forcing us to change all of our energy sources. The people that will be hurt the most are the ones that can least afford it. And remember one more thing, it's a theory not a fact.
  5. S Campbell
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    S Campbell - March 19, 2013 4:33 pm
    Lost, I agree 100% that subsidies, particularly in the case of the oil and banking industries, are an abomination to the capitalistic economy. I am all for eliminating them. But I think that only solves a portion of the issue, because face it, they will find a way to make money, and they don't care who suffers from their profitable "innovations." The principle reason that we have a government is to protect our interests, and for that very reason, the government needs to be involved in regulating this industry. Fees, sanctions and tariffs to guide the direction of energy production are not a bad way to go. Certainly less unreasonable than trusting that a multinational company whose allegiance is to stake holders, rather than our national economic and health interests. Will Joel's suggestions work? What we're doing right now isn't. Also, the studies are there, but the gulf between those who understand the science and don't is vast, which is a shame. And that's MS. Soup to you.
  6. Mike Hammer
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    Mike Hammer - March 19, 2013 3:57 pm
    Energy efficiency is a noble aspiration as long as the concept is value-engineered. When you wrap a home in air-tight plastic, the water vapor becomes trapped in the wall system and provides the prerequisite moisture for rampant mold growth. Now a family saves $5.00/month on electricity, and spends many times that in medical expense before factoring in human suffering. I am not arguing against frugality, conservation, or any other worthwhile cause...just rampant, embedded virulent stupidity in the name of "the environment."
  7. Jefferson Paine
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    Jefferson Paine - March 19, 2013 2:56 pm
    We have satellites, for example, we didn't have in the 70's.....
  8. Jefferson Paine
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    Jefferson Paine - March 19, 2013 2:56 pm
    In the 70's we didn't have the same high tech scientific instruments, techniques and devices we have now. That's part of progress. Always trying to get a cleaer understanding of phenomena. That 'global cooling' idea was not at all fulyl received by the science world......It was a theory put forward my a UW Professor who thought our pollution would block out the Sun's rays. It was a silly theory and didn't last long.
  9. Old Bowhunter
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    Old Bowhunter - March 19, 2013 12:50 pm
    Maybe your not old enough to remember Mr Paine but back in the 70's we were told by these very scientists that global cooling was going to destroy us all. By the year 2000 the glaciers were going to be as far south as Duluth and New York harbor was going to be frozen over. How can it be that two totally different man made weather disasters can have the same solution? How come the scientists that provided Al Gore with his hockey stick graph admitted they lied to get the results they wanted? CO2 is 38 one thousandths of one percent of the atmosphere with man making about 4% and mother nature making about 96%. How could we possibly have a greater effect than mother nature? Who's head is in the warming/cooling sand?
  10. Jefferson Paine
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    Jefferson Paine - March 19, 2013 11:04 am
    How old are you? Such mindless juvenile trash.
  11. Jefferson Paine
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    Jefferson Paine - March 19, 2013 11:03 am
    I'd rather keep it the way it was....
  12. Jefferson Paine
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    Jefferson Paine - March 19, 2013 11:01 am
    stupid comment pheasant
  13. Jefferson Paine
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    Jefferson Paine - March 19, 2013 11:00 am
    Sticking your head in the warming sand is far more radical than letting Science and Research reveal the truths. All but a handful of Scientists agree the globe is warming. Most inhabitants of the planet believe so as well. Environmental crisis is the #1 or #2 main worry for the greater majority of Americans, foreigners, governments and our own Pentagon.

    Hurricane Sandy wasn't a big windy was a seas surge of water......water being freed in glaciers and from both Polar ice the water tables are a little higher across the board. Planning for environmental disaster is a huge priority with most coastal States as well as the Feds and the Military.

    YOU are out of sync with the Nation Old Bowhunter.....
  14. Jefferson Paine
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    Jefferson Paine - March 19, 2013 10:54 am
    What a stupid idea.....

    The planet's weather systems are in major flux. All of this snow and sleet we are getting used to be glaciers and snowcaps from all across the North Western hemisphere....

    Things are changing. You may one day get your wish for completely snow free March's......but may have to then deal with Malaria carrying mosquitoes in April...
  15. Jefferson Paine
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    Jefferson Paine - March 19, 2013 10:49 am

    I'm with you on the hazards of plastics.....which are made from fossil fuels. Our own homes can be more toxic inside than the situation outside any major city.

    And what, pray tell, is so wrong with energy efficiency? I mean....isn't efficiency one of the true elements of a progressing and growing capitalist based economy? Look how Henry Ford's vision worked out so well for the economy and, ergo, the Security of the Nation.
  16. Mike Hammer
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    Mike Hammer - March 19, 2013 9:01 am
    I understand Joel's point of view , having immersed himself in an environment of half-truths. I do not understand the position of the La Crosse Journal giving this kind of face-time to this "science'. For example: asthma has increased exponentially, not because of the abundance of fossil fuels, but because of the oil embargo scam of the early 70's that preoccupied Americans with "energy efficiency". These plastic-wrapped houses are the asthmatics' equivalent of Auschwitz. I could go on, but it becomes rather like shoveling you know what against the tide.
  17. The Veteran
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    The Veteran - March 18, 2013 7:49 pm
    msnovitski Another arrogant educated snob,you are entitled to your opinion just as I am so god save us from educated fools like you.
  18. Only1Green
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    Only1Green - March 18, 2013 5:30 pm
    Sorry, I think you missed the sarcasm. When has letting the government collect more money EVER helped solved, and that is the key word, solved, a problem?
  19. lostinparadize
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    lostinparadize - March 18, 2013 4:43 pm
    MR Soup I see where you seem to be coming from. No where in your post do you mention the wealthy in regards to damaged health. Yes, I know, I didn't mention them either. But, my post was talking was talking about economic damage which the wealthy would certainly be far less affected by than the poor and middle class. I acknowledge climate change. I dispute the cause of it. Has man caused some of it? No doubt. Can man undo the damage? No, not unless someone conquers the entire world and then makes the edict talked about in the letter to the editor. Your main concern appears to be big bad oil and the subsidies they get. You are using the poor as a tool to make your point . I say, let's get rid of ALL subsidies and let the marketplace decide what works or doesn't work economically. I was pointing out that this fellows' ideas were not ever going to work in todays' world. Hense the Don Q stuff. I didn't miss the point at all.I hung around with a lot of "world changers" in the 60s.
  20. FUBAR
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    FUBAR - March 18, 2013 3:56 pm
    I wish everyone in this area would drive around all day as fast as they can burning as much fossil fuel as they can so I don't have to freaking snow blow in mid March.
  21. Old Bowhunter
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    Old Bowhunter - March 18, 2013 3:12 pm
    First environmental radicals had a common enemy, fossil fuels. Then they needed a crisis to get the little people stirred up to support their cause. They called their first crisis global cooling because the temperatures had been dropping since the 30's. The solution to global cooling was to get rid of all fossil fuels. Brilliant plan! Then, as the earth has a tendency to do, temperatures started to go back up. This cause the environmental radicals create a new crisis to fight their common enemy fossil fuels. They called this new great crisis global warming. Another brilliant plan! The little people fell in line like sheep. Al's movie was shown in every school to brainwash the next generation. Everything was going like clockwork until that darn earth started to cool off again. So. forever vigilant, the environmental radicals created yet another crisis with the same solution of getting rid of all fossil fuels. They called this third and hopefully final crisis climate change. Brilliant plan!
  22. LeftyWade
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    LeftyWade - March 18, 2013 1:52 pm
    Actually he's going to be a rural family medicine doctor.
  23. S Campbell
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    S Campbell - March 18, 2013 1:31 pm
    Yes. We spent 2.6 trillion dollars in 2010 on healthcare costs. Here, let me show you how much that is: 2,600,000,000,000. Part of the cost was caused in part by the activities of big oil. Air and water pollution are real things, and cause real health consequences, particularly to those too poor to leave the highest impacted areas.

    In this country, you pay to play. If I receive services, then I accept my responsibility to pay for them, and don't whine about it or act like a petulant child and refuse to pay for the goods that I've used. I pay my heating bill like everyone else. What Mr. Charles is suggesting is that the value of those goods is not accurately reflected in the monetary price that we pay, and that for all of our wellbeing - both monetarily and otherwise - we may need to start addressing that fact. It's inconvenient, but seriously, put on your grownup pants and join the real world where people attend to their responsibilities.
  24. Only1Green
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    Only1Green - March 18, 2013 12:20 pm
    And any fee they pay is passed on to the consumer, right? So how does that make a manufacturer change his product?
  25. Only1Green
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    Only1Green - March 18, 2013 12:17 pm
    Sooo paying more in taxes or another fee, to the government mind you, is supposed to help? Really?
  26. pheasant
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    pheasant - March 18, 2013 12:06 pm
    Well, I think we all know what path this young fella is "headed down"! Government Employment. If he has not already? LOL!
  27. allcav
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    allcav - March 18, 2013 11:43 am
    He has a button down shirt but doesn't button the collars. Is this someone we should trust?
  28. Buggs Raplin
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    Buggs Raplin - March 18, 2013 11:04 am
    Well...about the Pentagon...isn't 'army intelligence' a well known oxymoron?
  29. Richy
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    Richy - March 18, 2013 10:18 am
    Lost i look at science every day. Its called the forecast and its wrong most of the time. So what happens when the world slows down or its axis changes? Do we put rockets all pointing in the same direction to speed it back up. Wow what happened when the earth was burning all the time in the beginning. Fire and water is what created all living things so now you want the fire out and let us freeze. I would rather have a jungle than an ice burg i cant grow anything on.
  30. Jefferson Paine
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    Jefferson Paine - March 18, 2013 10:12 am
    Why not have Big Oil pay for our US military 'escort' services in the Midddle East and anywhere else on the globe where we have our military protecting the flow of oil?

    Why not have big oil pay it;s ling overdue royalties to the US government?

    And, certainly, quit subsidizing the highly profitable and mature oil industry.....

    Denying humans haven't negatively ipacted the environemnt is pathetic. Our own Dept. of Defense has already been altering strategies based on the reality of global warming you clowns......If you are a right winger then you must follow the lead of the Pentagon and the Pentago recognizes fully "Global Warming"....
  31. Richy
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    Richy - March 18, 2013 10:10 am
    Joel you need to walk to work,Eat grass and weeds.Heat your house, oh wait a minute if you live in a house Joel you are destroying the environment. Don't kill any animals for food either because you may want them cooked and you will have to start a fire. Listen to all the tree hiphuggers. I love my place in the woods but it is only for a moment in time and this planet will be destroyed someday with or without us on it. Yes we are floating in outer space like many tree hiphuggers brains are. Oh and Joel please don't pass gas because it as small as it may be will contribute to the carbon foot print and I don't so you should not either.
  32. Jefferson Paine
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    Jefferson Paine - March 18, 2013 10:06 am
    You are smarter than this deny the globe isn't warming is to deny you have a brain and cognitive skills of assesment and evaluation.
  33. Buggs Raplin
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    Buggs Raplin - March 18, 2013 9:34 am
    I've said this over and over, but climate change is a fraud, a hoax. The earth was warmer from the 9th to the 13th centuries than it is today. Al Gore left that fact out of his award winning documentary. You know the one where he used computer graphics from a Hollywood movie and passed them off as real. Then there's those East Anglia e-mails from the climate change 'scientists' saying the data wasn't supporting climate change so they were going to have to fudge the data. There's is great pressure on academics to join this fraudulent crusade. Professors put their jobs on the line if they oppose the climate change fraud. Hey, the earth heats up, the earth cools down, the earth heats up again, and so on and so on. Climate change is a hoax.
  34. random annoying bozo
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    random annoying bozo - March 18, 2013 9:18 am
    actually global warming didn't come was 'global cooling' that came first. and when that didn't pan out, it became 'global warming'.....if it's not getting cooler, it must be getting warmer, right?
    when 'global warming' didn't really go out as hyped, it became 'climate change', that way if it gets warmer or cooler, the word 'change' covers all bets.

    life is carbon based, so in essence a carbon tax is no more than a tax on life.

  35. Dick Smith
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    Dick Smith - March 18, 2013 9:18 am
    Amazing op ed. Thank you Joel. I knew that fossil fuel emissions had a disproportionate effect on the health of our most vulnerable citizens--the youngest, oldest and poorest. But I was stunned to read that burning fossil fuels contributes to 4 of the 5 leading causes of death in the U.S.

    A few comments above are silly.

    First, it really doesn't matter whether you call it "global warming" or "climate change". However, I it's sometimes useful to distinguish between the SCIENCE of global warming, and the IMPACTS of climate change--which, sadly, run from A (acidifying oceans--the evil twin of globlal warming) to Z (zoological mass extinctions).

    Second, import fees are common under WTO free-trade agreements. They level the playing field for U.S. firms that pay a carbon fee. So, if China and India do not find a way to reduce carbon emissions comparable to our federal carbon tax, then they pay fees based on the carbon content of their imported goods. It's not rocket science.
  36. random annoying bozo
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    random annoying bozo - March 18, 2013 9:11 am
    could someone please explain to me how giving more money to governemnt will curtail anything?
    that is all the carbon tax is, it's a money grab by governemnt ... nothing more, nothing less.

    if paying more taxs to governemnt will solve all of our ills, then what the heck, government should just confiscate not only everyones income, but wealth as well.....then give back to us what governemnt deems is our minimum to live.

    governemnt takes our money and freedoms by using what i call the trilogy of deceit.
    almost all government money, or liberty grabs, are framed in one of three, the environment, and lastly for the simple minded, fairness. and the naive seem to fall for the deceit and illusions everytime.
  37. S Campbell
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    S Campbell - March 18, 2013 8:50 am
    "This law alone would cause much harm to the poor and middle class that you idealists would willingly throw under the bus in the name of "clean air" and a reduction of two degrees in average world wide temperature."

    Lost, I think you're missing the larger point here. The poor and middle class are already being caused harm by the impact of fossil fuels on their health, and without health, you have less of a chance to better your economic future. You may not agree with his policy suggestions, but our economy directly supports private fossil fuel companies to the tune of billions of dollars a year, causing more harm to the poor and middle class. I'd rather throw us under the bus for 2 degrees of lower temperature (which has an ENORMOUS impact on our climate) than throw them under the bus for some multi-billion dollar multinational corporation that is destroying our economy and ecology. And if you don't believe in climate change, it's because you don't believe in science.
  38. msnovitski
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    msnovitski - March 18, 2013 8:21 am
    It was called "global warming" and then people such as the person who commented below (The Veteran) don't understand that global warming can cause climate shifts that result in colder weather, stronger hurricanes, and other weather changes. The term "climate change" seems to be something everyone that has studied global warming agrees to call it. You can speak naively and call it a hoax or fraud, but please do share your CREDIBLE resource in which you find recent scientific data proving that climate change does not exist.
    God save us from the ignorant.
  39. Buggs Raplin
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    Buggs Raplin - March 18, 2013 7:44 am
    First it was 'global warming' When that failed to muster the troops, they changed it to 'climate change' Whatever you call it, it's a hoax, a fraud to tax us more. God save us from the gullibles.
  40. The Veteran
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    The Veteran - March 18, 2013 7:37 am
    Myself I am all for a little climate change right now, real sick of this lingering winter.But according to this zealot I caused it so I will do like I always do(grin and bare it ).
  41. FUBAR
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    FUBAR - March 18, 2013 7:34 am
    I admire your ideals Joel but "lostinparadize" is correct here. More fees more taxes on products would do more harm than good. The cost of these "border" taxes woulld be passed on to the consumer and costs of everything would go up.
  42. CelticMan
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    CelticMan - March 18, 2013 4:52 am
    Interesting concept in the original letter. I wonder how it would pan out. Great Don Q. reference, Lost.
  43. lostinparadize
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    lostinparadize - March 18, 2013 2:25 am
    Ahhhh, young Joel; or should a call you Don Q.? Spur that donkey and show him the whip !! I believe I see a windmill on the horizon that needs conquering. The "Really" major problem I see with your ambitions is the one stating we must apply a border tax on goods coming from any nation that doesn't have a similar law on carbon emmisions. Good luck getting that passed. Even our exalted leader wouldn't touch that one with the proverbial ten foot pole. Do you realize how much product of all types this country imports from many, many nations who have no intentions of limiting their economies with one of these carbon taxes? Think China, India, all the asian countries, all the south american countries, the list goes on and on. This law alone would cause much harm to the poor and middle class that you idealists would willingly throw under the bus in the name of "clean air" and a reduction of two degrees in average world wide temperature. Again, get that jousting lance horizontal and CHARGE !
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