Some people are worried about climate change, others not at all. It depends on your perspective and experience and how much you read. I read too much. I also have a perspective based on experience. I am a retired nurse.
I am worried about climate change. On Oct. 8, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its most dire warning yet about the impact we can expect in a world that warms more than 1.5 degrees Celsius: Food shortages, coastal flooding, mass migrations, ferocious storms, bigger and more intense wildfires, and unbearable heat that could make some parts of the world unlivable.
Aggressive climate action is necessary to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions before civilization as we know it changes irreparably.
I never really connected medical conditions with fossil fuel pollution when I was working in the hospital. Patients come into the hospital, are made well and then go home. Most of them, anyway. That was the case until I observed the brown-yellow cloud hanging over Phoenix from a distance during a hiking trip south of the city. Everyone breathes that cloud, including my grandkids. That woke me up.
I started reading and quickly learned about carbon dioxide and particulate matter and volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide; the latter two, when combined with heat and sunlight, produce ozone. These pollutants come from dust, chemical plants, gasoline pumps, power plants, industrial furnaces and boilers, motor vehicles. They have a detrimental effect on health, particularly among the very young and old, and those with chronic, debilitating medical conditions. Research is proving almost all body systems are affected by pollutants in the air we breathe.
In 2017, there were 16 weather-related climate disasters that caused a total of more than $306 billion dollars in damage. While we cannot say climate change directly caused those disasters, we can say that climate change makes weather events more intense and more frequent. We all pay taxes which go toward covering the costs of disaster cleanup. More disasters, more cleanup dollars needed.
Arizona is in the 25th year of a drought. Forests dry out and a small spark can ignite a maelstrom as was experienced in the northwest and California this year. Dry forests are prone to disease and death and provide fodder for that small spark. The fire season in Arizona is 75 days longer today than it was 50 years ago.
I have also learned that there is a solution for climate issues. Economists worldwide agree that putting a price on carbon is the fastest, cheapest, simplest, fairest, most transparent and most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas pollution in our world. Those that pollute should pay for that pollution. Pretty simple.
One organization working on a bipartisan plan for Congressional action on climate is Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Their proposal is a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend. A gradually increasing fee would be assessed on fossil fuels at the source of extraction: the mine, or well or port. The fees collected would be returned to households on an equal basis as a dividend, thus offsetting the increased costs of fuel passed on to consumers. Two-thirds of households would break even or receive more in dividends than they would pay in higher prices, thus providing an incentive to use clean energy products.
A border carbon adjustment puts fees on products imported from countries that do not have a comparable carbon pricing strategy and returns money to U.S. companies that export to those countries.
The operative word here is bipartisan. A bipartisan congressional bill is the only way this huge issue can be addressed. And solved.
Studies have shown that if Congress approves this plan, carbon dioxide levels could be reduced by as much as 50 percent below 1990 levels after 20 years. This is but one strategy to reduce greenhouse gases in our world. We need to use every possible tool in the toolbox to get the job done as quickly as we can, to reduce the damage forecast by the recent IPCC report.