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My view: A global warming solution to grow the economy

By Dave Folland

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, July 29 2014 3:14 p.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, July 29 2014 3:14 p.m. MDT

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Are you getting weary of hearing the bad news related to global warming? We hear stories like these: food prices are higher from extreme drought in agricultural areas; record wildfires destroy homes, pollute the air and create flooding on charred landscapes; pine beetles decimate Western forests, and, globally, May and June were the hottest months ever recorded. Yet we are told that steps we take to solve the problems will hurt our economy.

For those weary of the discouraging stories, there is good news in a report from REMI (Regional Economic Models Inc.), a highly regarded analytic firm. In a study commissioned by the nonpartisan Citizens Climate Lobby, REMI modeled the effect of carbon fee and dividend legislation.

In this proposal, a fee is placed on carbon (coal, oil and natural gas) where it enters the economy (mine, well or port of entry). It is set at $10 per ton of released carbon dioxide and increased by $10 per year, with all proceeds given back to households.

This policy would lead to the following outcomes over 20 years: 2.8 million jobs created, an increase in the economy by $80 billion to $90 billion per year, 13,000 to 15,000 fewer yearly deaths from air pollution and reduced carbon emissions of 52 percent.

How would this carbon fee actually benefit the economy? First, by giving revenues back to households, the fee would actually stimulate the economy and create jobs in health care, retail, the service industry and other sectors.

Second, the proposal calls for border adjustments, that is, a tariff on imports based on the amount of carbon used in their production. This would protect U.S. manufacturers while giving our trading partners a reason to enact their own carbon fee.

Finally, by letting the market drive the transition to clean energy, over time other cleaner sources of electricity would actually become less expensive than the polluting fossil fuels.

As a physician, I’m especially pleased with the improved health that would accompany the reduced air pollution from this proposal. Because all the factors leading to a death are usually not apparent, we generally don’t recognize how air pollution contributes to the deaths of so many people: it's reported that over 7 million people die each year from air pollution, which includes an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 Utahns. These people die from heart attacks, asthma and other lung diseases, but “air pollution” is not listed as a cause of death on their death certificates.

So why aren’t members of Congress working tirelessly on carbon fee and dividend policy? In fairness, the great benefits of such a policy have just recently been reported. But also there is tremendous pressure to keep the status quo.

I had the privilege of joining seven other local Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers in Washington, D.C., last month to lobby for carbon fee and dividend legislation. We joined over 600 others from across the country and together held 512 meetings with members of Congress or their staffs. Many were very receptive to thinking seriously about the proposal, and many asked keen questions.

But before our senators and representatives will take positive action, they need to hear from their constituents. With elections a little more than three months away, now is the ideal time to formulate questions for the candidates. What is their energy policy to address global warming? What do they think about carbon fee and dividend legislation?

Isn’t it time for some good news on addressing global warming? A carbon fee and dividend policy can lead to increased jobs, a growing economy, better health and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

David Folland, M.D., is a retired pediatrician from Sandy and volunteer co-leader of the Salt Lake City Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby.

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