Readers’ opinion: New legislation creates incentives for reducing carbon emissions

A fiery sunset in the smoky haze near Judith Landing. (David Reese/Misosula Current)

The news has been full of reports about the challenges of climate change and the need to take action to reduce fossil carbon pollution soon.

Proof of the changes is in our own backyard, evidenced by more frequent, large wildfires and the smoke they produce, severe hurricanes, floods, rising ocean levels and more.

The effects have serious consequences economically: As homes burn, roads wash out, and health costs go up from all the smoke. Socially, too: People are displaced and have lost their jobs, homes and peace of mind. And environmentally: Noxious weeds expand, cold water for trout in our rivers and streams decline and becomes more scarce for irrigation.

The 24th international meeting on climate change in Poland just wrapped up over the weekend. Many cities and states from the U.S. were in attendance. People are talking about how to adjust in equitable ways.

We wonder what gift we can give to our grandsons and daughters that will make Montana and the world better able to cope with these climatic changes. One important action is to create incentives and rewards for individuals and businesses that reduce fossil carbon emissions.

Great news surfaced this month: Extremely important bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives that can achieve this. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, H.R. 7173, is bipartisan, co-sponsored by two Republicans and three Democrats. These representatives are stepping away from partisan rancor and embracing solutions for all Americans.

This bill can avoid the problems France is having with its proposed gasoline tax that hurts rural and lower-income people most. It will actually put money in people’s pockets to help them adapt to climate change. It uses market forces to incentivize and reward the changes we need in our economy, by putting a price on fossil carbon and returning all of the money to citizens.

This allows people to make choices on how to spend the money they get back, to best help them adapt to the new reality we are all facing. It also gives businesses the clear consistent market signals they need to decide how to best invest for their future competitiveness.

The result can be dramatic reductions in fossil carbon, 33 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050. In the process of returning money to the people, it will stimulate the economy, creating new jobs.

Wildfires, floods, hurricanes and droughts don’t care if you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent. They affect you whether you are a farmer, rancher, fishing guide, craft beer brewer, tourism business owner/worker or forest manager. It is time we, the people, rally around a solution that works for all of us.

The bill will be re-introduced next year in the new congressional session. For more information, go to the Citizens Climate Lobbywebsite, a non-partisan group of citizens in every state and congressional district volunteering their time and working with Congress to introduce this bill.

We encourage you to contact Congressman Gianforte to become a co-sponsor and for Senators Tester and Daines to help support legislation in the Senate. In addition, reach out to your county commissioners, mayors, city council members and state legislators urging them to back this legislation and to express their support to the Montana delegation.

Dave Atkins is president of Treesource.org, a forester and forest Ecologist. Shirley Atkins is a teacher. Both are residents of Missoula.