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Moving the Climate Change-Solution Conversation Forward

Jul 14, 2014 -

From Hope to Confidence

This is a letter to the editor recently published in the Bend Bulletin by local resident Russ Donnelly, who provides articulate voice and perspective addressing climate change. 

In late June, I was privileged to represent our Bend Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapter (one of over 180 CCL chapters in the United States and abroad) at the recent National Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) Conference in Washington D.C.

The purpose of the conference was to bring together over 600 CCL volunteers to ask over 500 Members of Congress and their staffs to consider sponsoring or supporting a revenue-neutral carbon tax and rebate legislation. The goal of this proposed legislation is to reduce this country’s carbon emissions by 52 percent by 2035 (based on 1999 levels)
RussDonnellyinDC2014

One of the most exhilarating outcomes of our day on Capitol Hill was that virtually none of the conversations focused on whether ongoing global warming and climate changes and their short- and long term impacts were real or not. They were about potential solutions.

One of our small group meetings was with District 2 Congressman Greg Walden and his staff.  It was a constructive and respectful meeting that acknowledged the threat to our state and region of average temperature increases, more intensive and longer wildfire seasons, less snowfall and earlier melts, drought and growing season impacts to both farming and ranching, and the degradation of Oregon’s shellfish industry caused by ocean acidification. All of these impacts were recently noted in the National Climate Assessment and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

We discussed the revenue-neutral aspect of the carbon tax and rebate plan, where 100 percent of the revenue raised by a carbon tax on oil, gas and coal applied at the source (i.e., the well head or the mine) will be returned to households. The revenue will help consumers defray increasing energy costs in the short term, while the escalating costs to extract carbon-based fuels will drive market forces to more rapidly innovate towards cleaner energy sources. A recent report by Regional Economic Models, Inc. found that a revenue-neutral carbon tax and rebate will be good for the environment and the economy.

We discussed British Columbia’s carbon tax and rebate model which has had tremendous success at reducing emissions after five years; the promise of the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy signed by British Columbia, Oregon, Washington and California; and the follow-up to the 2013 Portland State University/Northwest Economic Research Center “Carbon Tax and Shift” study requested by the Oregon Legislature due this November.

For conservatives and carbon tax support, we referenced a recent opinion issued by Henry Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO and George W. Bush Treasury Secretary. Paulson points out in a June 22 Op-ed in the New York Times,“The Coming Climate Crash,” that “We’ve seen and felt the costs of underestimating the financial bubble.  Let’s not ignore the climate bubble.”

We and CCL’s other chapters look forward to ongoing conversations with our elected officials.

Most significantly, the local conversation is moving forward in Central Oregon, too.  Recently, the City Club of Central Oregon hosted a “Net Zero Energy Forum.” The featured speaker was mayor Rex Parris of Lancaster, California. His frank presentation on creating a “net zero” energy emission city focused on the engagement of the local and regional business communities.  The “net zero” approach, as reflected upon by Bill Buchanan, Board President of the City Club of Central Oregon, is “about more than mitigating climate change for future generations.” As Mr. Buchanan put it, this discussion is about economics, trade-offs, local leadership and encouraging innovation.

Bend’s Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapter looks forward to being a catalyst and partner in promoting this ongoing discussion with the City Club of Central Oregon and other business, community and environmental organizations. You can contact us at bend@citizensclimatelobby.org.

The conversation is shifting on climate change solutions. As one conference attendee said, his feelings have moved from a sense of hope to feelings of “confidence.”

Russ Donnelly lives in Bend and felt it was a privilege to represent Bend at this conference. You can see a short film of the Citizens Climate Lobby conference here.