97% of climate scientists agree: We must act

Published 1:46 am Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Something like dominos upright on an Andy tournament table, report after report on global climate change is falling. Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said humanity has about 12 years left to head off the worst effects. And just this Black Friday (ironically enough) the latest U. S. National Climate Assessment stated that the dire effects of climate change already are obvious in America—and getting worse.

Look at the monstrous costs and heartache of freakishly damaging hurricanes Harvey, Florence, and Michael. Watch as California gets consumed acre-by-acre in a wildfire “season” that now is close to being year-round. Note the death already of half the world’s coral reefs, the source of much advanced ocean life, including much of our seafood.

The vast preponderance of peer-reviewed climate scientists agree that climate change is real, it’s getting worse, and humans are the main cause. Our carbon fuel use and its release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are driving up air and ocean temperatures worldwide. Polar ice continues to thin and disappear, and sea levels already have climbed a few inches; without fast action they will rise by feet within a few decades. Meanwhile, at the local level, Dr. Katherine Hayhoe—a noted climate scientist and also evangelical Christian—says to expect a growing assault of unprecedented weather disasters, a trend she calls “global weirding.” The National Assessment warns that the Southeast may be in line for lingering drought like that sparking California’s burning. Add to that the health effects of tropical disease migrating northward, the national defense challenge of climate-desperate human migrations, and the mounting costs to infrastructure especially on our coasts—it all adds up to a unique and perhaps single most daunting challenge in human history.

But there is hope! Conservative and liberal leaders are taking note of one particular strategy to slow greenhouse gas emissions and lay the foundation for other steps necessary to ensure a livable climate for our children and grandchildren. This strategy is carbon fee and dividend. The idea is to raise the cost of carbon fuels and drive down their use by levying fees at their points of extraction. This necessarily would increase the costs for all carbon-based goods and services. But the program would buffer the poor and middle class against the rising costs of life’s necessities by rebating all collected fees to American households in the form of monthly dividend payments.

Republican lions like Reagan treasury secretary George Schultz and secretary of state James Baker, George W. Bush treasury secretary Henry Paulson, and retired Sen. Trent Lott (MS) have signed on to the fee and dividend concept. They say it’s a market-friendly solution without the cost and bother of carbon regulations. They are campaigning actively, particularly among Republicans, for Congressional action. Meanwhile, a few weeks ago, noting the success of a similar approach in British Columbia, Canada announced its own fee and dividend program.

Ultimately, addressing climate change is not about the survival of coral reefs or polar bears: It’s about protecting and passing along a livable world to our human posterity. If you doubt the reality of the crisis, go to NASA.gov on the web and take a look at what 97 percent of the climate science community says. Please don’t be confused by political and special interest claims to the contrary! If you agree that we have an urgent responsibility to act, go to citizensclimatelobby.org for more information on carbon fee and dividend and how you can help.

It’s not too late to break the chain of falling dominoes. But we must act together!

John Northrop recently was named a Distinguished Graduate of Andalusia High School. He lives in Birmingham and is Senior Co-Chair of Citizens Climate Lobby, Birmingham chapter.