15 Aug Choose the middle path: Yes on I-732!!!
Posted from Seattle,WA on August 15, updated August 18 & 25, 2016
The ad shown below should appear in the Sunday, August 25th A-section of the Seattle Times. It advocates a yes on I-732 as a “middle path.”
I ran the following ad tomorrow Tuesday August 16 in the A-section of the Seattle Times and it will run again on Sunday, August 21, 2016.
I-732 is the revenue-neutral carbon tax measure that will be on the ballot in November. I am urging everyone to donate to it, put up a yard-sign for it, help with the campaign, and do every other thing to help I 732 become law. Here is the link to I-732’s campaign website:
& here is the link to Audubon WA’s climate page:
and here is a link to an excellent Sightline article discussing the pros and cons of 732:
Now why I support I-732:
(please note, these words are mine alone have not even been seen by anyone associated with the campaign)
I learned about the greenhouse effect in the 10th grade Chemistry class of Mr. Gernard in Boyertown Area Senior High School (Pennsylvania) in 1966. It was never a secret, never a conspiracy, just a scientifically-predictable consequence of burning fossil fuel. Ironically, had people never burned any fossil fuel, we would probably be facing an oncoming Ice Age. But we did burn fossil fuel, so much so that we’ve long ago dodged the Ice Age bullet. Now we’ve simply gone too far and are pushing the world’s climate and the world’s oceans (oceans absorb carbon and then become acidic) too hard.
Nature and the Creation/biodiversity are suffering especially, and the world’s poor and dispossessed are the other great group that is suffering especially. As agriculture becomes impossible in tropical countries because of intense heat and drought, millions of people will be forced to leave their homelands–or be flooded out by rising seas– and try to get to a place where they can survive. The war in Syria was the result of many, many factors, but the decisive one was the hot-weather drought in recent years, clearly in keeping with climate change, that destroyed its centuries-old agricultural viability and drove hundreds of thousands off the land and into the cities.
The world’s response has defined the word Feckless
Perhaps the world’s ineffective, indeed almost nonexistent efforts to rein in climate- forcing so far (except in BC) can be attributed to the great human conflict-of-interest on the subject. We are a tropics-originated species (from Africa if you believe in evolution, from the Garden of Eden if you prefer the Biblical explanation, both places equally tropical) that has never been completely at home in the temperate world–we’ve needed warm clothing, central heating systems and snow-removal operations to make it through the temperate winter. The human encounter with cold, rain and snow has left such a scar on our delicate tropical psyche that there is hardly a song in our culture about despair that doesn’t mention clouds, cold or rain and hardly a song about happiness that doesn’t mention warmth, sunshine, blue skies or rain being gone. Now that humans have inadvertently figured out a way to heat up the whole earth, there is no more need to cross to the sunny side of the street–through pollution we can increase the temperature on the shady side. Liberals love to blame the climate-change-deniers for the lack of response to warming, but in my opinion the overwhelming popularity of ‘warmth’ dwarfs the effect of a relatively small cadre of opinion leaders who aren’t on board. To state this case the other way, if pollution were making the world colder instead of warmer, we would have gotten right on it and taken care of the problem long ago. We’re all unified in not wanting snow in September–and we would have immediately instituted revenue-neutral pollution taxes–reducing regressive taxes and replacing them with pollution fees, as I-732 does–most everywhere.
But I digress. The various feckless responses so far have included ethanol, sold originally, partly, as a way to stop climate change. Ethanol actually is worse than gasoline for the climate as the huge amount of land required to grow the corn mandated for ethanol forces agriculture further and further into the rain forest, which of course must be cut down, worsening climate change. Some of the same organizations, such as Washington Environmental Coalition (WEC) that now are shockingly opposed to I-732, are also guilty of being early supporters and enablers of ethanol mandates. By removing 40% of the massive US corn crop and displacing food crops accordingly, ethanol has resulted in higher food and cropland prices, hurting especially the world’s poor while removing habitat for wildlife.
Another feckless response to climate change has been to create beautiful-sounding treaties that commit governments to reducing carbon emissions to various low target levels in the future. I don’t necessarily oppose these, but they are at least somewhat feckless in their overall feel. The first of these was Kyoto which was both flawed and ineffective but gave politicians a no-cost way to associate themselves in voters minds with the opposition to climate-change. Now there is Paris. I wish it well.
One strategy for fighting climate-change-that occupies the the border area between feckless and intentionally over-complicated has been Cap and Trade. Cap and Trade takes pollution and turns it into a property-right. Those who have been polluting have the future right to pollute at that status-quo-ante rate, sometimes for a fee paid to government. Cap and Trade is sold to the public through the notion that the government will gradually reduce that right once it has been purchased. But the right to pollute has now become a property in itself, subject at least in theory to the takings clause of the US Constitution, so we have a new problem that we didn’t have before. Exhaustingly, under Cap and Trade there is guaranteed to be a political battle-royal every time the government tries to reduce the Cap, and that’s assuming lack of cynicism of intent. Plus the “carbon offsets” are the perfect recipe for political corruption. Do you have time to go see and evaluate the project in the third world where a tree has been planted so you can fly a jet? Didn’t think so. There is no reason, other than the nice sound of the words “cap and trade” to opt for a complicated and roundabout way of doing something that could be done in a simple, logical and effective way. (The Washington thinktank Sightline Institute has a discussion of Cap and Trade as it relates to California’s new law here: http://www.sightline.org/2014/05/22/17-things-to-know-about-californias-carbon-cap/?gclid=CIGxsf690s4CFcdffgodpcAAdg
(Sightline’s article is mostly positive, but if you read through it note how many calls must be made by government officials, how many definitions must be written, and note that for the Cap aspect of the system to work, there basically needs to be strong legislative support for the duration of its existence)
That way is an RNCT: a Revenue-neutral Carbon Tax.
A revenue-neutral carbon tax simply taxes each unit of carbon and–so that it is not burdensome on the public, returns that money to the public either directly or through reductions in regressive taxation rates. As soon as an RNCT has been implemented it goes to work, and it never stops working–even if it stays at a low rate–until or unless it is repealed. It doesn’t coerce people to stop using carbon and it doesn’t pick so-called “clean” or “sustainable” (both words that have no definitions) technologies, it simply raises the price of carbon to reflect the true cost of using carbon. By reducing demand for fossil fuels, it will lower the underlying before-tax price of fossil fuels, which therefore will muffle the increase in actual gas prices resulting from the carbon tax–and remember there are decreases in regressive taxes that should zero out negative effects for most everyone, plus a tax refund of up to $1,500 for for 400,000 low income families.
Here is a link to an article in Grist about climate-scientist James Hansen’s recent assessment of the climate issue in which he comes out for an RCNT:
James Hansen’s new climate study is terrifying, but he still has hope
A similar approach is working in British Columbia
For some evil reason, we rarely hear of the one place in the world that has found the solution to carbon pollution, British Columbia. Hal Bernton’s otherwise excellent article on I-732 on August 14 is somewhat typical in giving it short-shrift: “British Columbia started a carbon tax in 2008, and it has currently stalled $30,” he writes. The problem with that sentence is that if a cap and trade limit stalls the cap becomes useless, but if a carbon tax stalls, even at $1.00, it’s still helping and part of the solution. So Bernton’s use of the word “stalled” doesn’t convey the real picture. Bernton also failed to mention that the BC RNCT has driven down carbon pollution without hurting the economy and was implemented by a conservative administration. The rest of Bernton’s piece was very good, but ignoring BC’s success seems to go with the territory these days
732 is the last hope for the world
“Just because there is no hope is no reason not to persevere,” (let me go find the book that’s in by Barbara Tuchman and remind myself who actually said that first) applies to our current situation. As long as there are free markets, people who have a reasonable amount of mobility will probably survive fine and maybe even prosper in the warming world, but if you are paying attention to the natural world, or to the people who politically and economically lack mobility or the ability to bid for the world’s goods, your tears are probably already falling. Our Violet-green Swallows failed this year for the first time, during our April May heatwave/drought. We’re going to be losing some of the birds and butterflies, and less glamorous species also, that help make life worth living. And we’re not supposed to be doing that. In one of the earliest books written that sits on top of most bestseller lists, these birds and critters are called “good,” and ordered to “multiply.” But if a person doesn’t need to be moved by that. These critters are simply not our generation’s property to steal from all future generations.
We are in a great position to lead the world in this meaningful way. For whatever reason, be it the Seahawks Superbowl victory, our Orca whales, or our ever-less snow-capped mountains, people around the world look up to our state. We can start the ball rolling. Just put a price on pollution so buying carbon and burning it costs the consumer an amount that is closer to reflecting it’s real cost in our world. Washington can’t solve the problem alone but it can lead the way alone and with British Columbia. And don’t let this get caught up in the right/left size-of-government debate so that all proposals get mired in the partisan trench warfare people call politics these days. Simple problems demand simple solutions. Yes on I-732!
The debate on the left over 732
Something to keep in mind in the debate within the political left over 732 is this: The opponents of 732 are blowing smoke. When they found out 732 had come out of nowhere and might actually make the ballot, they tried to kill it with a claim that they were very concerned about climate change and they were doing something about it and would have a ballot alternative to go up against 732 very soon. To say they were lying might be too strong, but let’s just say nothing was delivered. Now that 732 is on the ballot and would put Washington state into the worldwide lead in fighting carbon pollution, they are finding many reasons to be against 732 and saying things like “it is so poorly written…”
Sightline’s Kristin Eberhard and Alan Durning have written an essay on the debate on the political left over I 732 and, and of course I would quibble over the notion that a Revenue-neutral Carbon tax and Cap & Trade are near-equivalents (I view Cap & Trade as a inherently corrupt), but they did a good job and it is here: