Group presses plan to slow warming

HILLSDALE—What if you could make a difference, not just in your own life, but in the lives of everyone on the planet?

Iona Lutey of Hillsdale hopes to do that through the new Columbia County Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), which she brought together after she learning about the international organization. Global warming is “an issue I cared about and I knew I could make a difference,” she said. The local group began meeting in February.

The CCL is a grassroots volunteer organization working to “create the political will for a stable climate and to empower individuals to have breakthroughs in exercising their personal and political power.” There’s more at citizensclimatelobby.org.

Currently there are about 200 CCL chapters and 6,000 members in the U.S. and Canada. The Columbia County Chapter has a mailing list of 60 people who want updates on the issues and the group’s work and about 20 active members who attend monthly meetings.

Six members of the local chapter were among the 600 citizen lobbyists attending the fifth Citizens Climate Lobby International Conference in Washington, D.C., June 22 to 24. They were: Ms. Lutey, Deirdre Henderson, Michael O’Hara, Karen Frishkoff, and Bart and Jody Schoenfeld.

During the conference, the citizens attended workshop sessions informing them about a study from Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) that examined the potential impact of a steadily-rising fee on carbon dioxide, commonly called a carbon tax, imposed at the point of production or importation, with all revenue returned monthly to households, according to a CCL press release.

The tax on the carbon-dioxide content of fossil fuels, levied on producers, would start at $10/ton, increasing at $10/ton each year. Revenue from the tax would be returned to households in equal shares as direct payments. Under this approach, the REMI study says that recycling the revenue back into the economy would add 2.1 million jobs over 10 years. Improvements in air quality would save 13,000 lives a year. Emissions would decline by 33%.

“What this study shows is that by giving the revenue back to the people, a carbon tax will actually stimulate the economy. The big knock on a carbon tax has been that it would kill jobs. That assumption is now blown out of the water,” Mark Reynolds, executive director of Citizens Climate Lobby, which commissioned the study, said in the release. A copy of the REMI study can be downloaded at: http://citizensclimatelobby.org.

Last month, the National Climate Assessment reported that the impact of climate change is already being felt across the nation in the form of severe drought, rising sea levels, extreme weather, wildfires and heat waves. To reduce the future risk of climate change, the Obama administration recently unveiled new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Republicans in Congress are resisting the new rules, but the recent string of victories for the EPA in the Supreme Court makes it unlikely that efforts to block the regulations will succeed, the release said.

Following the CCL conference, the citizen lobbyists, armed with the REMI study findings and “a clear, market-based, common-sense solution” in the form of a carbon tax, met with about 523 senators and congress members during individual appointments, Ms. Lutey said.

CCL members who attended last year’s conference and spoke to legislators back then “sensed a real difference in the respect that they gave us. There was a lot more openness, even among hardened Republicans,” she said.

In addition to key staffers of Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Congressman Chris Gibson (R-19th) was among the representatives visited. He issued the following statement after the meeting:

“This was a very productive meeting, and we were able to find many areas of common ground. Our country has made significant reductions in carbon emissions in recent years. I am supportive of strengthening mitigation efforts to prepare for future environmental and climate changes, but I do not support doing so through new energy taxes, especially after the winter we just experienced with skyrocketing heating bills. I believe we can continue making sound investments in renewable technologies and cleaner energy production that will not only improve environmental health but create new jobs in places like Upstate New York. I want to thank my neighbors who took the time to travel to Washington to speak with me. I look forward to further discussions on this critical issue.”

Ms. Lutey does not expect a bill to pass Congress in this election year, but she is hopeful that the carbon tax idea will win support in the future.

A big part of what is happening now is education about the problem and the solution. “It’s prepping for the day when we say: Oh my gosh, how can we not do something?

“Fossil fuel companies impose huge costs on society and they do not have to pay for any of that. We have to rectify that with a tax on carbon,” Ms. Lutey said.

The Columbia County Chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby meets again Monday, July 21, 6 p.m. at 11 Kinderhook Street, Chatham. For more information contact 917 282-2395 or email columbiacounty@citizensclimatelobby.org.

To contact Diane Valden email .

 

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