Guest Opinion: It's time to put a price on carbon
Climate change hurts Southern Oregon. It hurts local businesses that rely on skiers and snowboarders when Mount Ashland fails to open. It hurts ranchers and farmers with drought and unseasonable heat. It hurts our forests when the fire season starts sooner and ends later each year.
But these hardships are tiny compared to the challenges our children and grandchildren face if we fail to act on climate change. Every reputable authority — from the Pentagon to the United Nations — warns that changing weather patterns, melting ice caps and ocean acidification will cause unprecedented social, economic and military crises. If we cannot secure a transition from fossil fuels before the end of the decade, it will not be possible for future generations to adapt.
But the solution is in sight. Oregon has the rare opportunity to lead our country and the world with the policy economists and climatologists say we need. It’s a policy that would create 450,000 new jobs in our region by holding out-of-state polluters accountable for climate change. We can put a price on carbon, either by charging polluters a fee or by requiring them to acquire permits before they pollute.
Buckminster Fuller once said that a problem adequately stated is very nearly a problem solved. Our problem is not a shortage of solar panels or windmills or hybrid cars, nor is it an abundance of gas and oil pipelines. Our problem is underpriced fossil fuels. We do not pay their hidden costs when we fill our tanks — it comes later, in the form of emergency drought relief, hurricane cleanup and forest fires. If polluters were accountable for these costs, a price signal would reverberate throughout our economy. It would reward smart decisions and punish wasteful ones. Energy alternatives, both proven ones and new ones, would attract new capital from investors. Nothing but a price on carbon can motivate the kind of systemic transformation that scientists say we need, and that’s because it targets the problem at its source.
Oregon Climate is a coalition of volunteers across the state united by our belief that we won’t win a solution to the climate crisis unless we ask for it by name. We are working people, Millennials, parents, grandparents, activists, farmers, engineers, students, artists and lawmakers who believe it’s time to hold polluters accountable.
We want Oregon’s Legislature to lead the country with an upstream price on carbon pollution, and we believe every Oregonian should be the beneficiaries of the revenue. And we need you, because Oregon may be the only state with a real shot at setting the standard of effective climate policy. But only if its form is shaped by Oregonians, and not through a closed-door political compromise.
On Dec. 7, join Oregon Climate for a public forum and community event on carbon pricing. “The Two Billion Dollar Question” will include panelists and speakers from Oregon Action, the R Street Institute, Siskiyou Sustainable Co-op and Oregon Tech, with special guest Sen. Alan Bates. This event will be a celebration of what we love about our home, and provide opportunities to join our focused, grassroots movement to protect it.
The event starts noon on Sunday at the KOBI-TV studio in Medford (and if saving the world doesn’t entice you, there will be food, art, and a raffle with locally donated items). Visit www.oregonclimate.org to learn more.
Camila Thorndike is executive director of Oregon Climate. Dan Golden is policy director of Oregon Climate.