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The Journal Gazette

  • Veldman

Monday, September 11, 2017 1:00 am

Editorial

Carbon dating: Fee proposal will have airing at local forum

Nature's cataclysms leave us feeling helpless. As the nation deals with horrendous storm devastation, it is not a moment to point fingers or offer “I told you so” lectures.

But it is an appropriate time to consider a workable solution to the hazards of climate change that already has garnered broad support from liberals and conservatives alike: the carbon fee and dividend proposal.

At 7 p.m. on Sept. 21, Marcia Veldman, state coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby, will discuss the merits of the carbon proposal over pizza at the Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren, 2810 Beacon St.

The most persuasive aspect of the carbon dividend plan, Veldman said in an interview Friday, is its effectiveness. “It has the potential to address greenhouse gas emissions on a scale that will help us meet the limits set forth in the Paris Accords” – the worldwide climate-change agreement from which the U.S. recently withdrew. Besides helping slow climate change, Veldman said, the carbon fee could also save lives by reducing air contamination – a big plus in high-pollution states such as Indiana. 

Rather than continue to attempt to impose and enforce endless variations of carbon regulations on factories, automobiles and other emission points, the Climate Lobby plan would tax carbon at its source, imposing a surcharge on fossil fuels where those fuels are mined, pumped or imported. The surcharge would be set according to the amount of carbon dioxide the fuel could emit.

Though the cost and controversy of pollution monitoring and enforcement could be avoided, the fees would of course cause the retail price of fuel and many other products to rise. Under the plan, the government would recycle most of the revenue back to consumers in yearly rebates.  The Climate Lobby cites research that suggests two-thirds of Americans would break even or come out ahead.

The Citizens' Climate Lobby is a national, bipartisan organization whose goal is to build support for the carbon fee and dividend plan at the community level and in Congress. It's staffed by volunteers like Veldman, who also has a farm and manages a farmers' market in Bloomington. She will be conducting next week's session not only to inform but to recruit more volunteers and explore the possibility of forming a seventh local Indiana chapter in Fort Wayne.

In her travels around the state, Veldman said, most people she meets are worried about climate change, though some aren't sold on the carbon-fee solution.

“Overall, people are concerned with climate change, but when it's ranked with their top concerns, it's not high yet,” Veldman said. “For many people, I think it's daunting, and they don't know where to begin.”

But there are plenty of ways to help spread the carbon-fee gospel, she said, including reaching out to the media, participating in the group's efforts to convert local political and business leaders, and writing letters to or lobbying congressmen.

The group's low-key lobbying approach has led to a growing Climate Solutions Caucus that now comprises26 Democrats and 26 Republicans. Though not a member of that caucus, U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Indianapolis, has become the first Hoosier member of Congress to sign the Climate Lobby-backed Republican Climate Resolution.

Trying to meld Republican and Democratic support on Capitol Hill is a challenge these days. Veldman said some members of Congress are wary when they are approached by Climate Lobby members, perhaps afraid the name connotes some kind of radical, confrontational organization. But her group's members begin by thanking the lawmakers for something they have done.

“We work from a position of respect, appreciation and gratitude,” Veldman said.