We must urge Congress to enact carbon legislation

Alice Elshoff /


Published Jun 28, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

A survey of more that 4,000 scientific papers revealed that 97.1 percent of these scientific treatises agreed that climate change was the result of human activity. These findings prove the strong scientific agreement about the causes of climate change. However, the general public has not kept up. A Pew Research poll found that less than half of those polled knew of this scientific agreement.

The business world, however, believes and wants something done. According to a June 6 Bulletin article, Mt. Bachelor has joined with 116 other ski areas around the nation in signing a climate declaration, stating that the U.S. must take the lead to combat climate change. Five other Oregon ski areas, along with Nike, the Portland Trailblazers and Starbucks have signed the declaration.

Most major oil companies express concern on their Web pages about the risks of climate change linked to greenhouse gas emissions. Quotes compiled by the Citizens Climate Lobby identify the policy they think Congress should enact.

BP: “We believe the most effective way to encourage companies to find, produce and distribute diverse forms of energy sustainably is to foster the use of markets that are open and competitive, and in which carbon has a price.”

Shell Oil: “To manage CO2, governments and industry must work together. Government action is needed and we support an international framework that puts a price on carbon.”

Exxon Mobile: “It is rare that a business lends its support to new taxes. But in this case, given the risk management challenges we face and the policy alternatives under consideration, it is our judgment that a carbon tax is a preferred course of public policy action versus cap and trade approaches.”

Conoco Phillips wants long-term certainty for investors, stating that effective climate change policy must utilize market-based mechanisms, create a level competitive playing field among energy sources and between countries.

There is also a moral dimension to the need to address the threats of climate change on human societies and the natural ecosystem on which we all depend. Among faith communities, concern is intense.

The Vatican urges that we must “reduce worldwide CO2 emissions without delay, using all means possible to ensure the long-term stability of the climate system.”

A Buddhist Declaration calls on us to “preserve humanity from imminent disaster and to assist the survival of the many diverse and beautiful forms of life on Earth.” Summing up the moral dimensions of the climate crisis, Unitarian-Universalist minister, the Rev. Terry Ellen, calls it “the mother of all social justice issues.”

Commendable efforts by individuals and local governments — from light bulb exchanges to green building programs — are not enough. Congress must act. The best way to persuade Congress to enact carbon fee-and-rebate legislation is for citizens to demand its passage.

A carbon-fee-and-rebate system has three working parts: Fees are imposed on the carbon contents of all fuels as they enter our economy. Fees collected from companies selling fossil fuels are given to consumers as rebates. Foreign companies having no carbon fee system pay a fee to the U.S. before selling their goods within our borders. With a carbon tax motivating the market, there would be no need for government subsidies and regulations. This system would be easy to implement, efficient and difficult to defraud.

Enter the Citizens Climate Lobby, a fast-growing nonprofit with 100 chapters across the United States and Canada. On June 23, 352 people attended the Fourth Annual International Citizens Climate Lobby Convention in D.C., where they carried messages to our members of Congress to enact a revenue-neutral fee on carbon.

The next meeting of the Bend chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby will be at 5 p.m. July 10 at the Environmental Center. All are invited as we educate ourselves about the issues and decide on actions to be taken.