clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Charge a new fee on carbon emissions to combat climate change

The increased cost of fossil fuels would push companies to move faster toward renewable sources of energy.

A new carbon fee, called for in the pending Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, could reduce emissions by 40% in 12 years and by 90% by 2050.
Getty

Chicago has never experienced a December without snow, but this past December came close — just 0.2 inches.

It was the second smallest amount of snow on record, dating back to 1884.

The year 2020 also ranked as the warmest for Chicago since the early 1880s.

A couple of weeks ago, it certainly seemed like a summer day in Chicago as I rode my bike to the grocery store without wearing winter gear. I couldn’t believe my eyes when my weather app showed temperatures in the 50s.

I don’t think we should be surprised, though, when we consider that the United States last year also experienced its 4th hottest November on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

We all enjoy warmer days, but there is a warning in this too dire to ignore.

Year by year, our winters are getting pushed back. A recent study published in the peer-reviewed science journal PLOS One concluded that by 2050 Chicago’s warmest and coldest months will increase in temperature by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit 6.1 degrees Fahrenheit respectively.

And this rise in temperatures is doing harm to the entire Great Lakes region. From January through August in 2020, Lake Michigan was almost three feet higher than usual, a new record. The lake came close to reaching a new all-time high for the year, the existing record having been set in 1986.

The scientific community has bombarded us with facts and figures about the impact of climate change all over the world — and right here in Chicago. But just acknowledging the fact of climate change won’t diminish the impact.

It’s been five years since the Paris Agreement on climate change was reached, yet we still are not on the right track. Yes, some countries have taken action to move toward greener energy and the economic measures that can slow climate change. Many major greenhouse gas-emitting countries such as the United States, however, seem to be nowhere near making the drastic effort necessary.

We are running out of time. We must use all the tools at our disposal to curtail carbon emissions. As citizens, it is our obligation to ask Congress to put politics aside and reach a bipartisan solution to climate change.

One of the best options is the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, a bipartisan bill pending in the U.S. House. It is co-sponsored by 86 representatives, including six from Illinois. They are Dan Lipinski — who recently left office — Jan Schakowsky, Robin Kelly, Danny Davis, Jesús García and, most recently, Mike Quigley.

It is great to see that people in power are willing to take action against climate change by supporting this legislation. It would impose a carbon fee at the point of fossil fuel extraction and returns those funds monthly to American households. The increased cost of fossil fuels would, in turn, encourage companies to accelerate the process of moving towards renewable sources of energy and reducing carbon emissions.

It is estimated that the carbon fee would drive down carbon emissions by 40% in 12 years and by 90% by 2050. And the dividend to American households would more than cover the increase in energy costs. It would be like a stimulus check, paid for by fossil fuel companies.

Similar kinds of carbon pricing models have been implemented in more than 25 countries, and they have resulted in reduced carbon emissions.

We need to act now to fight climate change. We can move toward a future that is free of fossil fuels or become fossils ourselves.

Shreyas Jagtap
Co-leader,
Citizen’s Climate Lobby, Chicago Northside chapter

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.