A Program for Climate Hope
Climate change is caused by greenhouse gas pollution released into the atmosphere when we burn coal, oil and natural gas. After 200 years of burning these fuels, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has reached dangerous levels. For example, the last time carbon dioxide was as high as it is today (over 400 parts per million), sea level was 20 to 30 feet higher. The latest science predicts that average sea level will rise 6 feet this century. Massachusetts is expected to experience an additional foot and a half of sea level rise due to local effects.
Society has overshot safe levels of greenhouse gas atmospheric concentrations, so I support a three-pronged approach to manage climate risks. As a first step, emissions of greenhouse gases must be reduced as quickly as practical. Next, because we have exceeded a safe concentration level, the excess of atmospheric greenhouse gases must be removed from the atmosphere. Finally, we don’t know whether we have crossed tipping points or how quickly we’ll be able to reduce emissions and remove excess gases. Therefore, it is necessary to be prepared for the worst: a sudden jump in temperatures, a shutdown of ocean currents producing regional climate catastrophes, or a jump in sea level that leads to overwhelming popular demand for action. Policies are called for in all three areas.
Various policies have been proposed for bringing greenhouse gas emissions under control, but economists from across the political spectrum agree that putting a price on emissions will create the greatest benefit at the least cost to society.
For this reason, I support the fairest, simplest, most transparent approach there is: A gradually rising tax on fossil fuels with 100% of revenues returned to all households in equal amounts and border adjustments to discourage corporations from practicing tax avoidance by relocating abroad.
Photosynthesis, in combination with biology, can remove greenhouse gases from the air, break them down, and sequester chemical compounds in soil to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations. Using photosynthesis and biology to build carbon-rich soils and plant matter is how nature created coal, oil, and natural gas originally. We can use these natural processes to safely return greenhouse gas chemical constituents to the earth while reaping other ecological benefits such as cleaner runoff and recharged aquifers. Reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations in this way will dial back the intensity of damages we can expect going forward.
Research must be funded to understand what strategies we might use to reduce the intensity of climate impacts for individuals, regions, nations, or the globe, in the event greenhouse gases are not removed from the atmosphere fast enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change in the short run.
Studies have shown that a revenue-neutral carbon tax will reduce emissions while adding jobs and growing household incomes and the economy overall. Land use practices that increase carbon concentrations in soil improve the nutritional value of livestock, fruits, and vegetables, while making farms and range lands more resilient to extreme weather. Funding research into emergency measures to compensate for inadequate emission reductions or drawdown will provide new funding opportunities to help train our next generation of scientists. These are the benefits that await us if we choose to confront the climate challenge today.