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.