Let’s price carbon now and let’s do it equitably

Today under a warm, hazy sun I walk out to my garden and pick a few ripe tomatoes and a handful of our latest novelty: a three quarter inch long gourd that looks like a miniature watermelon and tastes like cucumber with a dash of lemon. It’s crunchy and delightful in a salad. Seeds from this little Mexican Gherkin will go in the ground again next spring, it’s a keeper.

Of course neither the tomatoes, nor the Gherkins should still be alive and growing here in our good Central Wisconsin loam this time of year. When I first started gardening in 1974, frost took the cold sensitive plants down the very first weekend in September. The timing of that first frost was like 6 a.m. on the clock atop the dresser and the alarm rattling you out of bed; you could count on it. Not anymore.

Starting in the mid to late 1980s, first frost began edging deeper and deeper into September. The last three out of five years here in Marathon County it’s crept into October. This year will be the record. It’s the 15th today and still no frost. Frankly, this little tomato and this tiny gourd scare the dickens out of me. If the climate has changed this much in the last 35 years, I can barely imagine what my children and grandchildren’s world will be like in 2055.

I’m not a winter guy. Twenty below turns me into the great grump. I used to dread winter. Now, though, it’s summer I am learning to worry about. I always loved summer storms, just like my dad. He loved thunder and lightning and it drove my mom nuts. She would be in the basement saying the rosary while upstairs, enjoying the chaotic drum-roll, Dad sat at the kitchen window enthralled and defiant.

A couple of years ago, a tornado roared down our road one evening, knocking trees over like bowling pins and completely demolishing a barn down the road. The next morning a derecho blew through upending even more trees. During my lifetime, anyway, the woods out back will never look the same. In 70 years I’d never seen a blow down. Now the woods around here look like a giant’s game of pick up sticks.

This summer, two more storms packing a hard, windy punch blew in and the trees, again, took it on the chin. These days my wife and I both head for the basement as soon as the wind picks up.

Then there’s the summer air. We can see it in the sunrises and sunsets, all that smoke from the terrible forest fires out west. Beautiful colors that load of soot makes, but we know what particulate poison we’re breathing in. It’s hard to see the beauty in that, and each year it only seems to get worse.

Summer isn’t what it used to be, at least for me. Between record drought out west, and record floods nearly everywhere else, I’m pretty sure we aren’t alone in that assessment. Go ask someone who’s mountain home just burned down, or the mother cleaning river mud out of her silverware drawer in a waterlogged kitchen what they think?

The world’s scientists, the ones out in the field recording the data, tell us with pretty much one voice to leave the rest of the oil, gas and coal in the ground. If we only embraced renewable energy with gusto, adopted low carbon technologies like electric cars and planted a garden our carbon footprints would dramatically shrink. We’re not doing so well, and the rate at which greenhouse gases are increasing in our atmosphere attests to our failure to take action. We’re rapidly running out of time.

That’s why all eyes are on Washington D.C. That’s why so many eyes are on the Democratic Senate and budget reconciliation. Carbon pricing is in the air. A carbon price that increases every year. Carbon pricing that returns a significant dividend to all Americans making less than $400,000 a year. Twenty eight Nobel prize winning economists want it. All former federal reserve chairs still alive want it. Over 3,500 American economists want it and “100 percent of Elon Musk” wants it.

Without costing the Federal Government a cent, pricing carbon emissions will reduce our emissions by fifty percent in only fifteen years. Pricing carbon covers every part of our economy that uses fossil fuel. Pricing carbon makes it more and more expensive to pollute our air, water, soil and atmosphere. It’s a price we owe ourselves, our children and theirs. We all want to enjoy a clean and livable world, and we all want that for the future.

Pricing carbon is an incentive to you and me to enjoy the independence of renewable energy, to live comfortably in a way that supports life. Carbon pricing with a dividend that puts a monthly check in all our pockets is the most equitable way to tackle climate change out there. In fact it’s the only way to a more stable climate that doesn’t reduce the spending power of most low and middle-income families.

This is the most hopeful moment we’ve ever had. It’s also the most uncertain. To learn more, check out Citizens’ Climate Lobby and while you’re there send President Biden and Senator Tammy Baldwin your encouragement. It’s easy and they need to hear from you today.