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Guest Opinion: Three ways to take action against carbon pollution

Climate change: it’s real, it’s devastating, and it’s accelerating. Just this week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared that September 2014 was the hottest September on our planet in 135 years of keeping records.

While most people are aware of the damaging effects of greenhouse gas emissions and see evidence of it every day, how do we turn awareness into engagement and action?

History has shown us that lasting change often occurs when social movements are built from the ground up as grassroots groups come together to work for a collective action. Last month over 400,000 people, including 1,574 different organizations, marched in the streets of New York in the largest climate action ever.

Each of us can consider small ways to contribute that could lead to big change. Here are three things you can do right now.

1. Learn the facts.

Not just about the damage being done by greenhouse gas abusers, but about the carbon fee legislation being proposed that will motivate the fossil fuel companies to clean up their act.

A common misconception is that a fee on excessive carbon emissions will have negative economic consequences and cost people jobs. However, a study conducted this past June by REMI, an international economic modeling company, called “The Economic, Climate, Fiscal, Power and Demographic Impact of a National Fee-And-Dividend Carbon Tax”, indicated otherwise.

This report shows that adding a carbon fee at the point of extraction and returning 100 percent of revenues collected to American households will add 2.8 million additional jobs in the next 20 years while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 52 percent.

2. Make your vote count.

Before you fill out your ballot for the Nov. 4 election, be sure to know where your chosen candidates stand on the fight to promote clean energy.

For example, compare the positions of U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and his Republican challenger Monica Wehby.

According to Merkley, “The carbon pollution in our atmosphere from burning fossil fuels like oil and coal is waging a direct and unchecked assault on our farming, fishing and forests — the cornerstones of Oregon’s rural economy. Congress needs to wake up. Climate change is real, and it’s bad for our economy and jobs, especially in rural Oregon and the places that most depend on our abundant natural resources.”

Wehby defends GOP attacks on new environmental regulations intended to regulate coal plants to reduce climate change, arguing that it could hurt the economy. When asked if she would support any sort of plan by Congress to put a price on carbon, Wehby said “I think there are better ways to do that. The best way is to be funding our universities to help develop new technologies.”

Bottom line: we need to elect local, state and national representatives who understand the very dire consequences if we do not act now to dramatically lower our carbon emissions.

3. Get involved.

As Marshall Saunders, founder of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) said, “To solve the climate crisis, ordinary people like you and me have to organize and educate ourselves. We have to give up our hopelessness, our powerlessness, and gain the skills to be effective with our government.”

CCL (http://citizensclimatelobby.org/), with a chapter in Ashland, is an international nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with over 200 chapters and 7,500 members. CCL has proposed specific legislation that would help control carbon dioxide in our atmosphere without harming the economy. CCL supports applying a graduated fee to carbon with revenues returned to households.

In addition to CCL, there are other organizations in Southern Oregon that are focused on the climate crisis. Both SOCAN (http://socan.info/) and Rogue Climate (http://www.rogueclimate.org/) are active, well-run organizations that are making a difference.

What is important is that we all roll up our sleeves and get involved.

The road from awareness to various forms of engagement and action can seem daunting to navigate. But it's also a road we can't travel too long. The science confirms that we need to take substantial steps — and soon — to avoid the most potentially damaging effects of global warming and commit ourselves to a more sustainable future.

Ashland resident Jack Harbaugh is a volunteer with Citizens' Climate Lobby.