Although President Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, this is no time for the 70 percent of Americans who believe climate change is happening to recoil in defeat. Rather, we should feel empowered that a 2016 post-election poll of registered voters found that majorities of Democrats (86%), Independents (61%) and Republicans (51%) alike wanted the United States to participate in the Agreement and that two out of three voters said the U.S. should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions regardless of what other countries do.
Thus, it is exactly the time to speak out against the misguided actions of the White House by taking decisive steps well within our reach — as individual citizens and communities. After all, the Paris Agreement is only a broad-stroke commitment from participating countries to collectively limit global warming to 1.5 to 2.0 degrees Celsius (2.7 to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels. Let’s remember that it’s not the President, but Congress and legislative bodies at the state and local level that can enact laws to move us from a fossil-fuel to a sustainable-energy economy.
Here’s what’s already happening in various jurisdictions around the nation: Efforts are underway to pass state-level carbon pricing mechanisms, with the ultimate goal to pressure Congress to act nationally on climate change. The state of New York enacted a carbon tax on fuels in 2015, and various bills taxing carbon are in play in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.
Oregon has already set a cap on carbon emissions, and in California, legislation has been enacted to strengthen the State’s cap-and-trade system that had been set to expire in 2020. California has also passed the first state-level resolution entreating Congress to enact a national carbon tax (the proceeds would be redirected to low- and middle-income residents to offset resulting price rises in consumer products).
Local jurisdictions around the nation are also beginning to send strong messages to their Congressional representatives. Eleven cities have passed general resolutions calling on Congress to act on climate change, and resolutions passed in 35 other cities and counties, including 12 in California, more specifically petition for some form of a national carbon tax and “dividend” plan. It’s time for Irvine’s City Council to send Congress the same message.
The 2016 post-election poll of registered voters revealed that nearly eight out of ten voters supported placing a tax on and/or regulating global-warming pollution. Given the depth of the political divide in America these days, that’s an encouragingly high level of agreement. And, despite the apparent intransigence on Capitol Hill to tackling global warming, change is actually afoot politically that is too infrequently reported in the press.
The nascent Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives — by design half Republicans and half Democrats committed to addressing climate change — has already grown to 44 members since its inception in February 2016. What’s more, caucus members introduced major legislation in May, The Climate Solutions Commissions Act, which would establish a commission to scientifically evaluate different approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
As Americans, we have it within our power to contribute to the growing momentum at community, state and national levels to address climate change head on. Make your voice heard by phoning or emailing your elected representatives, urging action. You should also consider participating in local organizations focused on climate change solutions. This is how change happens.