As a member of the Central Wisconsin Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby or CCL, I joined 36 fellow Wisconsin volunteers and more than 333 other CCL members from around the country in lobbying on Capitol Hill. On June 25-27, we urged our United States Senators and Representatives to take action on climate change.
Joining in groups of five to 15, I met in person with Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Ron Kind, Rep. Sean Duffy's legislative assistant Bobby Hamill, and five other senators or staffers on Capitol Hill.
I urged them all to address climate change using an approach called carbon fee and dividend. In that system, a fee is assessed on fossil fuels at the fossil fuel source that is passed on to consumers, making fossil fuels more expensive. Then, 100 percent of the carbon fee is returned to consumers, making the system revenue-neutral.
With this system, two-thirds of households come out even or ahead. But, it creates a more level playing field between fossil fuels (that have been heavily subsidized for 100 years) and renewable energy (on which no fee is assessed).
The fee would start at $15 per ton of carbon and steadily rise at $10 per ton per year until renewable energy would be less expensive than fossil fuels. As a result, consumers would gravitate to renewable energy. Unlike "Cap and Trade," carbon fee and dividend does not pick winners and losers, though. Instead, it allows market forces to make the right choices in our transition to renewable energy.
Making the shift to renewables is important if our children and grandchildren are to have the same high quality of life that we do. Many people are concerned about the health effects of climate change. People are already dying from heat stress, and infectious diseases, asthma and respiratory distress are all becoming increasingly common.
For others, the central issues are the increased intensity of droughts and floods, the more numerous wildfires and severe storms, and the resulting suffering, higher insurance rates, lost productivity and even death.
Clearly, we must speed the transition to renewable energy.
I'm particularly concerned about declines in various species. Have you noticed how few monarch butterflies there are in Wisconsin? Their summer habitat here is declining, and their winter habitat is stressed due to severe droughts in Mexico.
By converting from coal to modern, clean wind and other renewable energy sources, we would reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change and also reduce mercury in the fly-ash of coal-fired power plants. If you like to fish, you know that mercury in a major problem in fish from all Wisconsin lakes. Other states have made more progress than Wisconsin on cleaning up our power plants. Now's the time for us to act.