Johann N. Bruhn, Ph.D., is a longtime Columbia resident. He has studied forest ecology and forest health professionally for more than 40 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Monday, October 28, a local group of citizens will launch the mid-Missouri chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby with a 3-hour workshop beginning at 6:00 p.m. at Stoney Creek Inn, in Columbia. CCL's national director of field development, Lynate Pettengill, will lead the workshop. If you're concerned about climate change, and want to join with thousands of like-minded citizens to help make a real difference, read on and then attend this CCL workshop.
As a citizen who has been observing the gradually building effects of human-induced climate change, this event is both symbolically and actually timely. This Tuesday is the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the effects of which all of us will be paying for the rest of our lives in missed opportunities as well as direct costs. One of the effects of our society's short attention span is that we fail to effectively link initial events with the costly long-term ripple effects: homelessness, loss of livelihood, loss of life, loss of infrastructure, and even hopelessness.
In trying to grasp the totality of the devastation wreaked by superstorm Sandy, let's expand our vision beyond that to encompass as well the total devastation caused by recent firestorms in Australia, Arizona, California, Colorado and elsewhere, which also includes loss of life and property as well as the consequences of the ensuing flooding in Colorado. These aren't the last storms, fires and floods that we will experience, and they probably aren't the worst, thanks to climate change. As the old movie adverts advised, "Coming to your town soon!" You don't have to be a climatologist to see what's happening in our ecosystems and draw the link to human-caused carbon pollution. Outstanding climate scientists, like James Hansen (Columbia University, formerly with NASA) have made the situation plenty clear. Watch his TED lecture at: http://www.ted.com/talks/james_hansen_why_i_must_speak_out_about_climate_change.html. For more information, consider reading his book, "Storms of My Grandchildren."
In Professor Hansen's TED talk, he concludes that the principal objective of CCL, a carbon fee and dividend, is the best political and economic mechanism to avert climate catastrophe. Hansen doesn't need to be an economist (and neither do you) to understand the economic and political wisdom of a carbon fee (a tax on carbon fuels at their sources) coupled with dividends totaling 100 percent of these revenues distributed equally to all citizens. These dividends will help each of us off-set the increased costs of fossil-fuel dependent goods and services that will be passed on to us as a result of the tax. The political wisdom of this tax is that it is revenue-neutral, meaning that the government will not keep the funds collected. This is possible because it will cost the federal government very little to use existing data and infrastructure to collect and distribute the tax revenues. Even some conservative Republicans are finding this approach appealing. Because this approach makes heavily subsidized fossil-fuel energy more expensive (reflecting its total cost to society) it provides a more level playing field for non-fossil fuel forms of energy, while permitting citizens to vote with their dollars. Come learn more Monday evening as we inaugurate the newest chapter of CCL here in mid-Mo!
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