January 2017 Meeting Notes

People present: Alison Drury Aldrich, Peter Rolnick, Linda Quinn, Miriam Kashia, Del Holland, Cara Keller, Kai Hedstrom, Eric Johnson, Barbara Eckstein, Jim Throgmorton, Janet Pollard

Eric shared some advice on talking to others about carbon fee & dividend.
◦ Be careful about reiterating misinformation. For example, if someone claims that Barack Obama is a muslim, say “He was baptized on such-and-such a date…” as opposed to saying “Obama is not a muslim.” The second phrase, in spite of the word “not”, reinforces a connection between the word “Obama” and the word “muslim”; the first replaces the misinformation with correct information.
◦ A conservative value is purity as in “the purity of American family values”. Thus an appeal to the purity of the Earth and of nature can help conservatives connect with what we are trying to do.
◦ Pride in our National Parks is a conservative value; Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, started the National Park system.

Though she was not at the meeting, Cheryl Miller let us know that she will call City Hall to get an update on selecting a technical consultant for the City’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, and that she and Brandon Jennings will work with the City on the planning process. The consultant proposals were due on 1/20. Jim pointed out the City will recruit members for the planning committee, which will be five stake-holders plus five at-large members. We all thought it would be good if Cheryl applied to be one of the at-large members to represent our organization.

We talked about what each of us plans to do before next month’s meeting. Commitments included working on projects such as the 5k Run/Walk, joining CCL and CCL-Community, bringing snacks to events, and writing to members of Congress.

We listened to the CCL Monthly Call:
◦ Yoram Bauman talking about the failed effort to get a mostly revenue-neutral carbon tax passed in the the state of Washington (Ballot Measure 732). One of the issues he raised is that there was a lot of push back from the left, because many of those left-leaning groups didn’t like the revenue-neutrality part (personally, I translate that to: Many of those groups didn’t understand the revenue-neutrality part). Yoram said they hadn’t done a good job of reaching out to those left-leaning constituences before hand. That led to the suggestion that we should be reaching out to organizations such as the Black Voices Project, the Center for Worker Justice, the City Federation of Labor, and the Johnson County Affordable Housing Coalition, both to learn about the concerns of these groups, and to familiarize them with the connections between the issue of climate change and minority and worker rights and affordable housing. (I remind us that our website says “we are bound by human compassion to work towards social justice for those most greatly affected by our failure to” “protect this world on which all life depends”.) [Since then, I have contacted the Johnson County Affordable Housing Coalition and will attend their meeting Jan 26–thanks Jim for the heads up!] A related suggestion: We could do a tabling event as part of the Juneteenth celebration, perhaps connecting climate change and refugees.
◦ Executive Director Mark Reynolds urged us all to call our Member of Congress this month to express our support for Carbon Fee & Dividend–get the new Congress started off on the right foot.

It was suggested that we connect with parts of District 02 other than the Iowa City Area, and make that part of our connection with Congressman Loebsack.
We did not get a chance to talk about endorsing–perhaps we will do that at our next meeting.

Spring Lobby Drive:
◦ Eric will make arrangements for us to meet locally with both Representative Loebsack (district 02) and Representative Blum (district 01) (or their staff members) during March or April as part of CCL’s national drive. This is a great opportunity to get your feet wet meeting with Congressional offices. If you are new to this, don’t worry, we will give you lots of help getting ready. If you would like to participate, let Eric know (eric.d.johnson@gmail.com). NOTE: If you live in district 01, your presence is especially valuable in a meeting with Blum!
We talked about upcoming events:
◦ Next meeting: Saturday February 11, 11 am – 1 pm, Coralville Public Library, 1401 5th Street, Coralville.
◦ Fundraiser at Uptown Bill’s with the Sierra Club, Sunday March 5, 2 – 4 pm, music and snacks! Miriam will bring some snacks, other snack providers needed! Contact me (prolnick@truman.edu) if you’d like to help–WE NEED A FEW MORE PEOPLE TO BRING DELICIOUS SNACKS!.
◦ CCL North Wind Regional Conference
▪ Iowa Lakeside Lab, Okoboji, March 17-19 (Friday evening public presentation, conference Saturday all day, Sunday ’til noon)
▪ We looked at a proposed agenda for the Conference. Anyone wishing to contribute ideas and/or volunteer Paul Thompson (paul@coolplanetmn.org – he is one of the Regional Coordinators).
▪ Thus far Peter, Barbara, Del, another Barb, me and possibly Miriam are going. Peter and Del both have cars. If you are going let me know (prolnick@truman.edu), and let me know also if you need or can offer a ride.
◦5k Run/Walk in honor of Barbara Schlacter, Aprill 22 (Earth Day)
▪https://runforvictimsofclimatechange.org/
▪Eric has been working hard gathering sponsors for the event.
◦June CCL Conference and Lobby Day in DC:
▪The 2017 CCL/CCE conference and lobby day is set for June 11-13 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. Registration is now open. As with this year’s conference and lobby day, there will be a limited number of lobbying slots, so be sure to register early if you plan to meet with congressional offices. If you want to go YOU MUST REGISTER BEFORE MAY 26.
▪You can register either for just the conference or for both the conference and lobbying; the cost is the same ($129 now, goes up later). If you do the lobbying, you need to do the training if you haven’t done it before, and you can sign up for sign up for that training at the conference. To register, go to: http://citizensclimatelobby.org/2017-ccl-conference/.
▪Prior to the conference (in Washington, D.C., June 7-10, 2017) there will be an “Advanced Policy Boot Camp” to “enhance [your] ability to engage with the more technical aspects of greenhouse gas mitigation policy, will be able to serve as a resource for [your] local group of climate advocates, and will increase [your] ability to make strategic advocacy decisions.” If you are interested let me know (prolnick@truman.edu) and I will pass registration information along when it becomes available.
◦November CCL Conference and Lobby Day in DC, exact days to be announced.

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IMPORTANT NOTE: IF YOU WRITE A LETTER TO A MEMEMBER OF CONGRESS, GET A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OR AN OP-ED PUBLISHED IN A PAPER, OR DO ANY KIND OF CCL OUTREACH EVENT PLEASE LET ME KNOW (prolnick@truman.edu). CCL tracks these things–the information helps with fundraising and other things.

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Here are some ways to volunteer, some very simple, some more challenging, with links to related information:

◦ Join Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) (if you haven’t done so already).
▪ Go to http://citizensclimatelobby.org/ and click on the red button on the upper right.
◦ Sign up for CCL-Community (if you haven’t done so already). You need to already be a member of CCL.
▪ Go to https://community.citizensclimatelobby.org, and click on the green “register” button.
◦ Write a letter to your Representative or your Senator.
▪ For information about how to do this, go to: http://cclusa.org/call.
▪ For a really quick way to write or call your member of congress go to cclusa.org/write or
◦ Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed to one of the following:
▪ Iowa City Press-Citizen (http://www.press-citizen.com/)
Send as email to mailto:opinion@press-citizen.com
▪ The Gazette (http://www.thegazette.com/)
Go to http://www.thegazette.com/letter-submissions; there are instructions and a form to fill out.
▪ The Daily Iowan (http://daily-iowan.com/)
Contact Marcus Brown at mailto:marcusvbrown@gmail.com or (319) 335-5863.
▪ The Corridor Business Journal (https://www.corridorbusiness.com/)
Send as email to mailto:johnl@corridorbusiness.com
▪ For general information about writing letters to the editor or op-eds, go to: https://community.citizensclimatelobby.org/cclu/writing-a-letter-to-a-member-of-congress/
◦ Arrange a tabling event.
▪ For information on how to do this, go to: https://community.citizensclimatelobby.org/cclu/tabling-101/
◦ Meet with a business, church, synagogue or other institution you are familiar with to see if they will endorse Congressional action on climate change.
▪ For general information about gathering endorsements, go to https://community.citizensclimatelobby.org/endorser-program/.

Jan 18, 2017 Op-Ed by ICCA member James McCoy

Base climate policy on science
http://www.press-citizen.com/story/opinion/contributors/guest-editorials/2017/01/18/base-climate-policy-science-citizens-climate-lobby/96359810/

Climate change is complex and does not lend itself to proof in a three-sentence sound bite. However, 97 percent of climate scientists agree the Earth is warming, with human activity playing a major role. The arguments used to challenge this tend to be ideological and not scientific. Yet we refute scientific ideas with ideology at our peril.

A historical example of such folly is the story of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko. His unsubstantiated idea that wheat plants could produce seeds of rye if grown in the appropriate environment was attractive to Stalin in the late 1940s/early ’50s. Such a dramatic shift in a plant’s inheritance pattern within one seed cycle would potentially mean a much more rapid increase in Soviet agricultural productivity. No need to wait years to get the seeds you want through Mendelian genetics! Lysenko became the director of the Institute of Genetics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, and geneticists who opposed him were persecuted. As a result of following this ideologically attractive, but scientifically unvalidated — and subsequently repudiated — theory, Soviet biological science and agriculture were set back dramatically.

Our major criteria for reliable truths needs to be scientific evidence, not what fits best with our ideology. Our country has developed innovative technologies not by ignoring science that contradicts our assumptions, but by working within the framework of scientific reality. The intergovernmental panel on climate change has concluded that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and “anthropogenic [manmade] greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era … and are now higher than ever [with] atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects … are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

We cannot lead the world without acknowledging and responding to the best information from independent scientists. China is well ahead of us with their investment in clean and renewable energy, having exceeded the combined total investment by the U.S. and Europe from 2010 to 2015. China has an emissions “trading system” in place in seven pilot programs that have already reduced emissions in those areas. To prevent further damage to the environment, we need to place a progressively rising price on CO2 emissions to encourage business and entrepreneurs to invest in a low-carbon future.

A well-developed idea of such a program is the Carbon Fee and Dividend System of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. This system places a fee on fossil fuels at the source (at the well, mine or port of entry), beginning at $15 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent emissions and steadily increases annually at $10 per metric ton. One hundred percent of the net fees are returned to American households on a per capita basis as a monthly dividend (similar to Alaska’s dividend from oil profits going to all households in that state). Finally, a border adjustment assesses a fee or rebate on goods traded with countries without a comparable carbon price.

Enacting such a policy will:

Send a clear price signal to entrepreneurs and existing businesses to invest in a clean-energy economy.
Protect lower- and middle-income households, as two-thirds of families will break even or receive more in dividends than they would pay in higher living expenses.
Create jobs, as the dividend will put money back into local economies.
Discourage domestic businesses from relocating where they can emit more CO2, and encourage other nations to adopt an equivalent price on carbon.
For more information on this approach, go to citizensclimatelobby.org. Then contact your senators and representatives and tell them to take action.

James McCoy is a resident of Iowa City and member of the Iowa City Climate Lobby.

December 2016 Meeting Notes

ICCA/CCL Meeting Minutes, Saturday December 10

(prepared by Peter Rolnick)

People Present: Brandon Jennings, Jamie McCoy, Chris Bergan, Cheryl Miller, Del Holland, Terri Macey, Miriam Kashia, Betul Zora, Linda Quin, Barbara Eckstein, Jim Throgmorton, Peter Rolnick, Ryan Hall (came at the end of the meeting), Eric Johnson (had to leave a little early).

  • After introducing ourselves, and having a piece of nice pound cake that Terri made, we watched the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) Monthly Call, in which Executive Director Mark Reynolds gave us an after-election pep talk. His resolve to get a revenue-neutral carbon fee passed by Congress by the end of 2017 has not softened! The primary speakers were Sam Daley Harris, a founder of the lobbying organization RESULTS, which worked toward increasing microloans around the world, and Jay Butera, a CCL volunteer who helped create the House Climate Solutions Caucus. Their subject was working with members of Congress (MOCs). One of the things they talked about was a Champion Scale. Here are the 6 levels of the champion scale that you might encounter with your MOC:  
      • Opposed. These MOCs might say things like, “I don’t support that,” or “What you’re talking about isn’t even a problem,” or “I agree it’s a problem, but I don’t like your solution.”
      • Neutral. Someone who’s neutral might say “I need more information,” or “Could you give me some materials to read so I can make a more informed decision?”
      • Supporter. A supporter might say, “I’ll co-sponsor that,” or “I think that’s a good solution, and I can get behind it.”
      • Advocate. An advocate starts to go above and beyond, perhaps saying things like, “Now that I’m a co-sponsor it’s important to build more support, need to educate fellow congressmen etc
      • Leader & Spokesperson. This MOC might be the lead sponsor of a bill or an initiator of a caucus, like the Climate Solutions Caucus.
      • Champion. This is the final level, and Sam cautions against tossing this label around. “I don’t like it when groups call anyone who does anything good a champion,” he said. “To me, a champion is someone who’s so passionate that they’re out in front of CCL, and pushing CCL to catch up.” For example, if a MOC arranged for five Republican colleagues and five Democratic colleagues to host a town hall meeting on carbon fee and dividend, that would be champion-level effort.

It is an interesting exercise to see where we think Loebsack, Blum, Young, King, Ernst and Grassley fall on this scale.

    • Suggestions as to how to move our MOC up the scale (from wherever they are at the moment) made by Harris and Butera, and that came up in our discussion afterward, included:
      • Make frequent contacts with our MOC, find ways to become useful to her/him, and always be recalibrating (meaning be ready to change our approach as often as needed as the situation changes).
      • Have monthly in-district meetings with our MOC (or staff).
      • Try to get our MOC to have a town-hall meeting.
      • Don’t think of our efforts as a sprint or a marathon, but as a long distance hike.
      • We should try to coordinate with the liasons for Ernst and Grassley (those liasons are not in our group) so we can more systematically interact with our Senators. [I will contact Anita, our state CCL coordinator, about this.]
  • Jamie told us about his efforts gathering endorsements (thank you, Jamie!).
    • There is lots of information and support on the CCL website for gathering endorsements. To access the endorser program page go to https://community.citizensclimatelobby.org/endorser-program/. You will need to log on with your CCL username and password. Jamie will look into contacting the following people suggested at the meeting:
      • Charlie Funk, Midwest One Bank,
      • John Balmer, Plumbers Supply,
      • John Lohman, Corridor Business Journal,
      • The Iowa Farm Bureau,
      • Eldon Stutzman.
    • The simplest way to approach endorsements is to talk to people and/or institutions that you are already familiar with, for example your place of worship, your employer, or your school. If you would like some help from Jamie, or want to plug in to his efforts, you can contact him at mailto:mccoyfam@mchsi.com.
    • I will try to contact some local unions about endorsements. It was suggested that John Fraser with Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) might be a good contact.
    • We decided that we would dedicate most or all of our next meeting on brainstorming about gathering endorsements. Come with your ideas, whatever they are–endorsements from organizations in our district are the strongest lever we have in moving our MOCs “up the champion scale.”
  • Cheryl and others filled us in on the work they are doing with the City Council’s sustainability efforts. A number of ICCA members were at the last City Council meeting where a resolution was passed unanimously (including an amendment Cheryl had worked out that set a goal of 80% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 2005 levels by 2050). Thank you Cheryl, Terri, Chris and Brandon! It was suggested that if the Council asks us for a representive to serve on the task force that will implement these ideas we send Cheryl (and she said that would be okay). It was suggested that we try to give (or arrange for someone to give) regular talks to a variety of audiences in the area on climate change and CF&D–this to help build support for the City’s efforts, among other things. The talks could be tailored to the audience. Suggested audiences include the Affordable Housing Coalition and racial equity and social justice organizations. The Iowa United Nations Association (IUNA) would be a good partner in this effort.
  • We talked about developing a relationship with our state representatives. Chris has provided the following resource for finding out who our state reps are (thank you, Chris!):
    • Go to www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find.
    • Enter your address and will find your personal reps.
    • Using the tab in the middle of the page you can enter city or zip code and get all 3 state senators (Dvorsky, Bolkom, Kinney) and five representatives (Kaufmann, Lensing, Stutsman, Jacoby, Mascher) for the Iowa City area. I [Chris] know Stutsman is retiring and her seat was won by Ann Nielson. I believe the others ran unopposed.
    • A note at the page bottom reads “Please contact your county auditor for more information.”
http://www.johnson-county.com/dept_auditor.aspx?id=12195.
  • Terri will host a Years of Living Dangerously watch party (we will watch the episode featuring Jay Butera and the creation of the Climate Solutions Caucus, with Bradley Whitford hosting). The party will be the evening of Friday, January 6. Stay tuned for an exact time!
  • I will arrange a fundraiser at Uptown Bill’s for some Sunday afternoon, 2-4 pm in January or February. I will arrange for my band and another band, and we will need people to make snacks. Uptown Bill’s will keep 10%-20%, depending on the take. Tom at Uptown Bill’s suggested we could have door prizes, a short speech by someone, and maybe schedule it on a day that coincides with some birthday or anniversay having to do with climate change. Let me know if you have any suggestions at mailto:prolnick@truman.edu.
  • We decided to try having our monthly meetings on the second Saturday of the month for now, partly so we can listen to the Monthly Call live.

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UPCOMING EVENTS

  • Years of Living Dangerously Watch Party
    • Friday, January 6, Evening (directions and exact time TBA)
  • Next ICCA/CCL Meeting
    • Saturday January 14, 11 am -1 pm, Coralville Public Library, Schwab Auditorium
  • CCL North Wind Regional Conference
    • Iowa Lakeside Lab, Okoboji, March 17-19 (Friday evening public presentation, conference Saturday all day, Sunday ’til noon)
  • June CCL Conference and Lobby Day in DC
    • The 2017 CCL/CCE conference and lobby day is set for June 11-13 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. Registration will open the second week of January. As with this year’s conference and lobby day, there will be a limited number of lobbying slots, so be sure to register early if you plan to meet with congressional offices.

November 2016 Meeting Notes

Iowa City Climate Advocates (ICCA)/Iowa City Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL)

Meeting Minutes (prepared by Peter Rolnick)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

People present: Eric Johnson, Brandon Jennings, Becca Mattson, Linda Quinn, Terri Macey, John Christenson, Chris Bergan, Emily Mueller, Perry Lenz, Kai Hedstrom, John Macatee, Marc Franke (via Skype!), Jamie McCoy and Peter Rolnick (and Jim Trepka showed up briefly after the Sierra Club meeting upstairs was over).

  • We introduced ourselves to each other. Many of us have been involved in various actions related to climate change, including participating in demonstrations against construction of the Bakken Pipeline, and demonstrations in support of nuclear power as part of the path to sustainable energy.
    • I should mention that, as a chapter of CCL, ICCA is neither for nor against nuclear power, neither for nor against any pipelines. We are a diverse organization, but the one thing we agree on is the need for a revenue-neutral fee on carbon, increasing yearly, and started as soon as possible. Once that is accomplished (I’m assuming it will be accomplished!) the task of switching over to sustainable, dependable energy will not be simple and there are a variety of approaches to how to best do that.
    • As part of the discussion, Chris pointed out the challenges of the electrical grid–for example, if you use mostly solar, what happens during the nighttime? He suggested a website where you can watch a grid for the province of Ontario in real time–see how much of what kind of power is being used over the last hour–at http://live.gridwatch.ca/. (I just now checked it out–pretty cool!)
  • CCL has a monthly call (with video) for all chapters in which an expert talks about some aspect of climate change, and also answers questions from people watching/listening in on the call. The calls are on the second Saturday of each month but we have been meeting on Wednesday evenings, so we listened to a rebroadcast of the most recent call, featuring evangelical climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe. The executive director of CCL, Mark Reynolds, also spoke about the mixed feelings people were having following the surprising results of the recent election, and encouraged us to continue working toward passing Carbon Fee & Dividend (CCL’s proposal for a revenue-neutral fee on carbon) by the end of 2017. We learned that the number of CCL volunteers has increased dramatically since the election–Democrat or Republican, people are concerned about climate change! We must try to make good use of this momentum.
    • If you want to watch the monthly call, or any previous calls, and you are able to log into CCL-Community, go to http://citizensclimatelobby.org/monthly-international-conference-calls/ (otherwise go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_Q7SxxkYi8&feature=youtu.be).
    • We briefly discussed the possiblity of moving our monthly meetings from the third Wednesday evening of the month to the second Saturday morning (late morning), so that we could watch the monthly call live. If you have an opinion about this, please let me (mailto:prolnick@truman.edu) or Eric (mailto:eric.d.johnson@gmail.com) know! (I say this with trepidation. Asking a bunch of people when the best meeting time is is like asking a bunch of cats whether they should all be in the kitchen, outside, in the living room, or in the bedroom.)
    • If you want to know more about Katherine Hayhoe, she is producing a series of short and wonderful videos called Global Weirding. Each one is only 6 minutes long. You can watch a video (or subscribe to the videos–a new one comes out every second Wednesday) at Global Weirding. I suggest you go there right now–they are short, terrific and amusing, and you can learn a lot from them!
    • Along with the monthly call, CCL suggests a Laser Talk to practice. (A Laser Talk is a succinct summary of important issues having to do with climate change and Carbon Fee & Dividend, for use in practicing talking to people about these issues. I have included this month’s Laser Talk at the end of these notes.)
  • Eric gave an update about the 5k Run/Walk to help victims of climate change, and to raise awareness of climate change, which will be on Earth Day (April 22, 2017). Mark your calendars!
  • Kai arrived at our meeting fresh off the plane from DC, and gave us an update on the CCL meetings he attended, and on his meetings with Congressmen Young and Loebsack, and with staffers for Congressman Blum and Senator Ernst. (He said the meeting with the Ernst staffers was longest and the most in-depth–they knew a lot about the issues!) He will prepare some more detailed notes on his experience and I will share them with everyone when completed. Kai thanked all the people who contributed money so he could represent us on this trip.
    • Now is the time to think about whether you want to and are able to attend the CCL Lobby Day at the end of June 2017 and/or the CCL Congressional Education Day in mid November 2017, both in DC. Remember, we want something passed by the end of 2017! Thus far both Eric and I will be at the June event.
  • Notes from my meeting with the Iowa City TIF Focus Group, and Cheryl’s meeting with the Mayor are included below.
  • Terri will let us know about the Years of Living Dangerously watch party after she has worked out some issues with her internet provider–stay tuned!
  • We talked briefly about how each of us can find a way to “plug into” our efforts to address climate change–in particular passing a revenue-neutral fee on carbon (such as Carbon Fee & Dividend) by the end of 2017.
    • The challenge is to find a role that that is comfortable for you–something you will enjoy doing. (Taking on a role out of guilt, or because no one else is doing it are not good reasons to act, and will only result in burn-out.)
    • Something that is relatively easy that we all can do is contact our Members of Congress via phone, web/email, or snail mail. Contacting them regularly in whatever way you are comfortable is what is most important–don’t lose sleep arguing with yourself over which method is most effective. If you are unsure of how to do this, join CCL (if you haven’t already–http://citizensclimatelobby.org/) and then join CCL-Community (they will tell you how to do this once you join CCL), then go to https://citizensclimatelobby.org/write-congress-about-climate-change/#/7/.
    • Additional roles that are waiting to be filled include:
      • Someone to organize our efforts to gather endorsements for Carbon Fee & Dividend,
      • Someone to organize our outreach efforts, particularly Tabling,
      • Someone to organize our fundraising efforts, and to apply for tax-exempt status.
      • There is plenty of help if you are interested in any of these roles, you don’t have to already know what to do.
      • Alternately, I (Peter) could take on one of these roles if someone wanted to take over my current role as meeting planner and/or web and email coordinator.
      • Once these organizational roles are filled, it will be very easy for those of us who do not want to be involved at the organizational level to just sign up for a simple one-time task such as tabling at an event, or reaching out to one organization for an endorsement.
  • And one last but most important announcement: Eric Johnson and Jenna Hammerich are now the proud parents of a beautiful girl–Hazel. Congratulations to the three of you!

UPCOMING EVENTS:

  • Years of Living Dangerously” Watch Party, time TBA
  • Regional Citizens’ Climate Lobby Conference: March 17-19 at the Iowa Lakeside Lab on the west shore of Lake Okaboji in Northwest Iowa, at Iowa Lakeside Lab.
  • International Citizens’ Climate Lobby Meeting and Congressional Lobby Day: June 11-13 in Washington DC.
  • Citizens’ Climate Lobby Congressional Education Day: Some time TBA in November, 2017.

Our Next Meeting will be either Saturday December 10, late morning, or Wednesday December 21 at 7:30 pm–we will keep you posted!

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  • Peter’s notes from TIF Focus Group Meeting
    • In November I attended a meeting, hosted by the City Council Economic Development Council, to gather feedback for how TIF (Tax Increment Financing) should be done in Iowa City. This group was focusing on sustainability, and I was there as a representative of our group (ICCA/CCL). The leader of the meeting was Wendy Ford, who works for the City.
    • I learned that TIF is a flexible way, allowed by the state, to use property tax money–particularly the increase in property tax when the landowner improves the property. A certain portion of the tax from the increased value of the property can be used for TIF for a certain number of years past the date the property was improved. For example, if you build a big hotel your property taxes go up, and for a few years a certain portion of the increase in taxes can be used for specific purposes.
    • TIF only happens in certain predetermined (by the city) zones called TIF zones.
    • The City doesn’t have to use all the available TIF money for these purposes–what the City doesn’t use just goes into the general fund.
    • Examples of what the City could do with the money include: giving money back to the developer to make it easier for development to happen, use the money to help pay for things we’d like to see, such as solar panels or sustainable landscaping.
    • Iowa City uses a much smaller amount of its possible TIF money than the surrounding communities and, I think, does not use it as much to simply “encourage more development” than do surrounding communities.
    • The only thing I suggested was that helping a developer make a building carbon-neutral, or closer to carbon-neutral than is typical now, was deserving of TIF money. Others at the meeting knew a lot more about these things than I do. We all seemed to agree on most things that were brought up. Other suggestions that I remember include: having a minumum sustainability requirement for receiving TIF money, with more money if you go above the minimum, having the City make its buildings and grounds more sustainable to set a good example.
    • I sent a follow-up email to Wendy making note of the fact that one of the challenges of sustainable development is the conflict between long-term and short-term thinking, and the related fact that developers don’t currently have a strong incentive to make apartments sustainable since doing so reduces future costs for the renter but not for the developer. Perhaps part of the “guide” to how we do TIF should implicly include trying to minimize these obstacles to sustainable development in the broadest way possible.
    • There will be Economic Development Council meetings about TIF in the future, which I will be informed about, and to which any of us are welcome to attend.

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Jim Olson’s Notes from the United Nations Association Meeting With Mayor Throgmorton (Cheryl attended this meeting on our behalf, but is unable to attend our meeting tonight, but she will get back to us about the progress of steps 1 & 2 below, and about conversations she has had with Brenda Nations, Iowa City Sustainability Coordinator; Jim Olson is with the United Nations Association, which organized this meeting.):

Meeting with Mayor Jim Throgmorton

November 11, 2016

The Johnson County Chapter of the United Nations Association – USA convened a meeting with Mayor Jim Throgmorton and representatives of several environmental and climate action groups to share information on how Iowa City will implement the goals of the  Compact of Mayors, of which Mayor Throgmorton (and Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie and Dubuque Mayor Ray Buol) is a member.  Iowa UNA president John Fraser met earlier this fall with mayors Cownie and Throgmorton to discuss how citizens may help with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and encourage other Iowa mayors to join the compact.

Jim Throgmorton briefly described the Compact of Mayors, which recently merged with the Covnenant of Mayors to become the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.  Iowa City joined as a way of emphasizing what the city is doing already and to advance the climate action goals in the city’s strategic plan.

At the November 1 Work Session of the City Council, IC Sustainability Coordinator Brenda Nations presented a two-pronged plan:

  1. Hiring a consultant to provide technical analysis and recommendations for achieving a 26-28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Iowa City by 2025, in line with the terms of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement; and
  2. Formation of an advisory committee composed of community members and stake-holders from, for example, business, industry, the University, and citizens.

Iowa City has already inventoried its greenhouse gas emissions, beginning in 2000 with several updates.  Mayor Throgmorton and Brenda Nations have had conversations with the UI College of Engineering and with Jerry Schnoor, for assistance in the project from UI students and faculty.  The Council will formally act on this recommendation at its December 1 meeting.

Attendees expressed support for this initiative and enthusiasm for helping in its implementation, especially in the area of public education.   They briefly described their organizations:

Iowa City Climate Activists (Cheryl Miller) is a five-year old organization that has focused on the introduction of a carbon tax and dividend.  It is a local chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby.

100 Grannies (Ann Christensen) is also five years old and in Iowa City has focused on banning plastic shopping bags.  Ann mentioned Arcadia Power, an opportunity for households to buy wind-generated electrical power.

Environmental Advocates (Del Holland) has sponsored a variety of forums and programs, including a campaign to make IC (and adjacent communities) bicycle friendly.

Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility (Maureen McCue), founded in the 1980s, is the Iowa affiliate of Physicians for Social Responsibility with a focus on the nexus of the nuclear threat and climate change.

United Nations Association (Jim Olson) informs and mobilizes Iowans in support of the work of the UN; climate action is one of two priority topics in Iowa.

Attendees expressed appreciation to Mayor Throgmorton for this meeting and to the City Council and staff for moving forward on this issue.  The groups represented at the meeting wish to continue communication and collaboration.

JMO, recorder

Attending:

Mayor Jim Throgmorton

Ann Christensen (100 Grannies)

Becky Ross (100 Grannies)

Del Holland (Environmental Advocates)

Katy Hansen (UNA, Johnson County Chapter)

Maureen McCue (Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility)

Fatima Saeed (UNA, Johnson County Chapter)

Sandra Eskin (Iowa United Nations Association)

Cheryl Miller (Iowa City Climate Advocates)

Susan McGuire (UNA, Johnson County Chapter)

Jim Olson (UNA, Johnson County Chapter)

 

Also invited:  Backyard Abundance, Sierra Club, ECOPOLIS

 

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LASER TALK

Impact of Carbon Fee and Dividend on households

One of the biggest concerns with pricing carbon is the financial impact it would have on American households, particularly low- and middle-income families. The good news is that returning revenue from a carbon fee on a per-capita basis will, for the most part, alleviate those concerns.

In February of 2016, CCL/CCE released a working paper from Kevin Ummel [1], a Research Scholar in the energy program at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Ummel assessed the net financial impact of a $15-per-ton of CO2 carbon fee with all proceeds returned to households equally. He found that 53% of U.S. households and 58% of individuals receive a net financial benefit as the dividend exceeds the estimated increase in costs of goods.

Breaking down the data by income level, those on the lower end did very well. Nearly 90% of those living below the Federal Poverty level benefited from the policy. Average net benefit was $311 for those below the federal poverty line. Among households within 200% of the Federal Poverty level — low income — 82% benefited from the policy, with an average net benefit of $243.

Looking at other demographics:

  • Among minority households, 82% benefited or experienced a minor loss, defined as less than 0.2% of income.
  • In rural areas, 54% benefited and 17% experienced minor loss.
  • In suburbs, 50% benefited with 21% experiencing minor loss.
  • In urban areas, the figures were 57% and 18%.

It’s important to note that the study does not factor in the benefits of reducing carbon pollution – lower health costs, lessened risk of natural disasters, for example. Further, the study assumed 100% of the carbon fee is passed on to consumers. Evidence indicates businesses actually pass on about 87% of costs for energy price increases. This means the same amount of money is being collected and returned, but costs don’t rise as much. More people would therefore end up ahead.

Overall, the Ummel paper shows a majority of American households benefiting from Carbon Fee and Dividend, with the benefits being greatest among disadvantaged households.

[1] Financial Impact on Households of Carbon Fee and Dividend: http://citizensclimatelobby.org/household-impact-study/

 

Here is a great Letter to the Editor of the Press-Citizen from Iowa City volunteer Jamie McCoy. Thanks Jamie!

A puffin in the coal mine

The worst breeding season ever of Atlantic puffins in the Gulf of Maine this year is another wake-up call to humanity that climate change is real and we need to act.

In the largest puffin colony in the Gulf of Maine normal chick survival is 60 percent. This year it was 12 percent with those surviving in poor condition. The failure is attributed to a sudden drop in food supply because of warmer ocean temperatures. Sad stories like this will become increasingly common if we do not decrease consumption of fossil fuels. In addition to wildlife tragedies, we are seeing increasing human tragedies from storms, droughts and sea level rise.

We don’t have to throw up our hands in helplessness. A fee and dividend system for fossil fuel reduction can incent the free market system to efficiently guide us to a low-carbon future without harm to the economy or hardship for the less well off. For a detailed description of this idea go to citizensclimatelobby.org.

James McCoy
Iowa City

Fee and dividend plan would curb climate change

Eric Johnson, Iowa City Climate Lobby 4:32 p.m. CDT October 19, 2016

We have a gigantic pricing mistake in our country. We currently don’t charge anyone anything for the waste products produced when fossil fuels are burned. This makes fossil fuels artificially cheap. Correcting this error in pricing will increase the cost of fossil fuels to where they should be and at the same time will level the playing field for non-polluting energy sources, like wind and solar.

The problem with correcting this pricing error is that several aspects of our economy depend on fossil fuels. We have woven them into our daily lives. A sudden cost increase would cause the economy to take a hit, something we can’t afford, as we’re still struggling to recover from the Great Recession of 2008.

However, economists and policy experts have figured out a great way to gradually correct the price of fossil fuels that will actually create jobs and boost our economy.

Here’s how it works. The government will collect a fee from all companies that introduce fossil fuels into our economy. The more fossil fuels that are introduced, the higher the fee. For example, a starting point might be to charge a fee of $15 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions. This corrective fee will cause fossil fuel companies to pass the cost on to consumers in the form of higher prices. However, each month, these fees will be divided equally. The government will distribute all of this money in the form of a check, called a “dividend,” to each household in America.

This dividend check will offset the newly increased prices described above. In fact many Americans, especially poor Americans who purchase less fossil fuels than the wealthy, will profit from this system.

If Americans want to increase their profits from this government check, they can switch to energy sources and products that are made more from renewable sources of energy. Renewable sources of energy and products made with renewable energy are already accurately priced, and their cost will remain the same under this system, or continue to decrease as new solar and wind technology is developed.

This carbon fee-and-dividend plan also includes measures to add fees to products that we import from other countries that don’t currently correctly price carbon pollution. However, contrary to popular knowledge, most other countries, China included, are either already correcting for the price of carbon dioxide pollution, or are in the midst of enacting a correction. For example, Shanghai and Beijing (both larger than New York City), have already put carbon dioxide pricing into place. A full 20 percent of the world’s carbon emissions are either currently being priced, or the law to correct their price has been passed but hasn’t taken effect yet. And another 30 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are in the planning stages of being priced. That’s half of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions! In fact, if you look at the top 10 largest economies in the world, they are all pricing carbon dioxide emissions, except for the U.S.

Aside from it being embarrassing that the U.S. has to play catch-up with the rest of the top economies, our reluctance to accurately price carbon emissions is also risky to our economy and our future status in the world. In all of these other powerhouse economies, the renewable energy sector is developing rapidly. At some point, the world will simply run out of fossil fuels, and we will be forced to switch to renewable energy. If we wait until that time, all of the other top economies will have developed advanced renewable energy sectors, while our renewable energy sector will be in its infancy, and it will take us many years to catch up. It’s even conceivable that we could go from being dependent on the Middle East for our fossil fuel energy to becoming dependent on China for our renewable energy.

Fortunately, momentum for acting on climate change is building quickly in the House. Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives dedicated to resolving climate change was formed. It’s called the Climate Solutions Caucus, and in the six months since its formation, the group has quickly swelled to 20 members: 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans. However, we still have a long way to go before we can pass this kind of legislation. Call and write your Congressmen and senators now, and ask them to join the Climate Solutions Caucus. Or ask them to pass “carbon fee-and-dividend” legislation, so we can bring our energy supply home, stimulate our economy and create tons of new jobs.

Iowa City Climate Advocates member Eric Johnson lives in Oxford.

October 2016 Meeting Notes

Minutes from our October 19, 2016 Meeting

(prepared by Peter Rolnick)

Present: Peter Rolnick, Terri Macey, Eric Johnson (by phone!), Kai Hedstrom, Barbara Eckstein, Chris Bergan.

  • We welcomed Kai, who is new to ICCA. He just graduated from Luther College, and is working with Americore helping to make public housing in the area more environmentally friendly. Welcome, Kai!
  • Eric talked about the reasons he is feeling optimistic that we can succeed at dealing with the challenges climate change presents. [An outline of what he said, including links to references, is included at the end of these minutes.]
  • We each studied a CCL “LaserTalk” (brief talking points on a subject connected to climate and a revenue-neutral carbon fee, prepared by CCL), after which we each explained about what we had learned. Besides learning new things, this was great practice in trying to explain an idea to others. The topics we talked about were:
    • Nuclear Power (Barbara): CCL takes no position on whether or not nuclear should be part of our path away from fossil fuels toward totally sustainable energy.
    • British Columbia’s Revenue-Neutral Carbon Fee (Terri): British Columbia has had a plan similar to CF&D in place for a few years, and it has decreased greenhouse emmisions relative to areas of Canada which have no such plan, and there has been no downturn in the economy.
    • Australian Carbon Tax Repealed (Peter): Australia had a carbon tax for two years which did decrease emissions, but it was repealed by Parliment. This is primarily because it was not a revenue-neutral tax (though Barbara pointed out that it was also coincident with a switch from a liberal to a conservative majority in Parliment).
    • Subsidies (Kai): CCL supports, eventually, ending all subsidies for energy production. Currently the ratio of subsidies for fossil-fuel energy to those for sustainable alternatives is around five to one.
    • Climate Basics (Chris): Temperature is increasing, it is caused by human activites (burning of fossil fuels, unsustainable agricultural practices, etc.). The science of how increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes the Earth to warm has been well-understood for years.
    • Biofuels (Eric): CCL takes no stand on biofuels. Though most current ethanol production leads to a net increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, if there was a fee on carbon then the true cost of those aspects of ethanol production which are unsound would be addressed, or it would no longer be economically feasible (especially with no energy subsidies–see above.)
  • We talked about the movie Dear President Obama (about the negative consequences of fracking), which some of us saw recently. We also discussed the challenge of deciding what personal choices to make in how we each live (as relates to climate change), and the challenge of how to best involve ourselves in ICCA–how to make the best use of each of our unique talents in making our organization effective while being respectful of ourselves and our time.
  • Terri will look into hosting a viewing of the CCL episode of Years of Living Dangerously. Peter will connect her with details about having a viewing party [DONE].
  • Kai expressed an interest in going to DC in November for Congressional Education Day; he will look into whether or not that would be feasible. Peter will put out a request for funds to help with travel expenses [DONE], which some people at the meeting said they would be able to do if needed.
  • In discussing tabling, Barbara told us about a project she and her students have been working on gathering information from Iowans about their experiences with extreme climate events. It is a collection of stories–a “people’s weather map”. In order to connect with more stories, and more people outside the “Iowa City environmentalists circle”, she suggested making our tabling be about collecting and sharing these stories, without any pushing of CCL or CF&D (though if people ask about that we could tell them).
  • When some of us (including Barbara and Peter) met with Loebsack staffer Dave Leshtz in August Dave had suggested organizing a joint labor/environmentalist conference. Barbara suggested that the movie Deep Water Horizon, besides being a good movie, focused particularly on labor–perhaps a showing of that movie could be part of such a conference.

***********************************************

NOTES ON BEING POSTIVE ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE

Historical Reasons

Technological Reasons

Political Reasons

September 2016 Meeting Notes

Iowa City Climate Advocates/Iowa City Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby Meeting

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Meeting Notes (prepared by Peter Rolnick)

People present: Eric Johnson, Jaimie McCoy, Jenna Hammerich, Terri Macey, Peter Rolnick, Linda Quinn, Brian Parkinson, Barbara Eckstein, Jim Throgmorton

  • We introduced ourselves and talked about what kind of things, related to our work on climate change, we liked to do and didn’t like to do. Interesting discussion followed, including: An explanation from Brian, who farms in Illinois, as to why no-till farming is better for the environment (and for the farmer!) than traditional plowing.
  • Eric gave a “laser talk” about what other countries in the world are doing to address climate change. The upshot is that about 50% of the world is already either pricing carbon in some way or has definite plans to do so. Furthermore, of the most developed economies only the United States is not pricing carbon. (I asked about Russia, which is also not pricing carbon, and it turns out that, if you include the state of California as one of the world’s top developed economies, it “bumps” Russia out of that category!) More information can be found about this on the CCL-Community website here: http://citizensclimatelobby.org/laser-talks/carbon-prices-around-world/.
  • It was pointed out that at one time Senator Grassley, in his consistently thoughtful responses to people’s letters, used to say that the US could not enact a carbon fee because China wasn’t doing anything. Now, to a number of us, he has said the problem is that, the REMI study notwithstanding, he is convinced that a revenue-neutral carbon fee would hurt the poorest Americans and was thus unacceptable. In response to the argument that the US couldn’t take action on pricing carbon until some portion of the rest of the world had, Barbara pointed out that that “following others” was not our only choice as a country; we could also choose to be a leader.
  • We wrote letters to our representatives throughout the meeting, one to Brian’s representative in Illinois, one to Senator Ernst and four to Congressman Loebsack.
  • We talked about fundraising. I agreed to look into a music/food fundraising event at Uptown Bill’s. This would be to raise money for our printing, MeetUp, and incidental expenses, plus money to help people travel to DC in June and November to lobby Congress.
  • We talked about what are the most effective things we can do to contribute to the effort to get a a revenue-neutral carbon fee passed by Congress before the end of 2017. Gathering endorsements and tabling were suggested. Some people talked of frustrating experiences they had had tabling–no one stopping to talk. It would be good if we had an endorsements person who spearheaded endorsement efforts, and then individuals could focus on small tasks as guided by that person. Anyone interested in taking on that role should contact me (mailto:prolnick@truman.edu or 660-342-2671). There is good information on the CCL-Community website on gathering endorsements: https://community.citizensclimatelobby.org/endorser-program/. Regarding endorsements and related efforts, Jim suggested, as allies, Mayor Frank Cownie from Des Moines, John Fraser from Iowa City (a retired businessman, perhaps?) working with the Iowa United Nations Association and wanting to connect with business, and Jean Lloyd Jones, the leader (?) of the local Iowa United Nations Association. Jim will send their contact info to me and I will see if one or more of them would be interested in presenting at one of our meetings.
  • As part of an effort to understand the steps needed to get carbon fee & dividend to actually become a bill, Barbara will research the role of the Congressional Budget Office in that process. Eric will give her information about whom to contact in Loebsack’s DC office.
  • Upcoming Events:
    • Mindy Ahler (one of our Regional Leaders) and Ryan Hall are riding their bikes across the country to raise awareness of climate change. They are currently in Montana. On October 1st they will be in Bismark, North Dakota, and they will be in Washington DC on November 14th, so in October or November they will be riding through Iowa. They will go through Greenfield, Indianola, Des Moines, Pella, Fairfield and Muscatine. Anyone able to meet them and show support would be welcome! You can find out more info regarding exactly where they’ll be when, as they get closer, at https://lowcarboncrossings.wordpress.com/cross-country-ride-2016/.
    • ICCA is hosting a showing of the movie Dear President Obama, narrated by Mark Ruffalo. The movie (2 hours and 11 minutes) is a critique of Obama’s “all of the above” approach to energy policy. The showing will be Tuesday October 4th, 6:30 pm, at the Iowa City Public Library, Room A.
    • Volunteers are still needed to lobby Congress in Washington, DC on Congressional Education Days, November 14, 15, 2016. Arrangements have been made to meet with Representative Loebsack (not a staffer), but so far there are no CCL-ers from Iowa that I know of going. Experience not required! If you are interested see http://citizensclimatelobby.org/congressional-education-day/, or contact me (mailto:prolnick@truman.edu or 660-342-2671).
    • There will be a Regional Citizens’ Climate Lobby Meeting in Okiboji, IA on March 16th & 17th. This will be a great opportunity to learn about Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and to meet fellow climate activists from other parts of our state and from neigboring states. Details are forthcoming, but it is in a beautiful place with beautiful accomodations. CCL executive director Mark Reynolds will be there. I will be driving there and will be glad to take along passengers.
    • ICCA will be hosting a 5k Run/Walk on Earth Day (April 22, 2017) to raise money for victims of climate change and to honor the memory of Barbara Schlacter, one of the founders of ICCA. The route will be from City Park to Terry Trueblood park. For more information or to volunteer to help out, contact Eric (mailto:eric.d.johnson@gmail.com).

NEXT MEETING:

Wednesday, October 19, 7-8:30 pm

Iowa City Public Library, room E

‘Gotta Save ‘Em All’ From Climate Change

Op Ed by Steve Valk in the Press-Citizen, August 18, 2016

“Gotta run. There’s a rumble down the street,” my eldest son, Cameron, says. He bolts out the door, cell phone in hand.

I flash back to his high school performance in “West Side Story.” But Cameron isn’t rushing to connect with the Sharks or Jets — he’s heading out to confront trainers wielding Golbat and Pidgeot.

Welcome to the world of Pokemon Go, the mobile app based on the cards, TV show and video games that dominated kid culture back when millennials were growing up in the 1990s. Unless you’ve been stranded on Mars, you can’t help noticing the phenomenon that has swept the world in a matter of weeks, as players wander streets and parks chasing down the coveted characters.

The king of all Pokemon, of course, is the iconic Pikachu: a yellow, pointy-eared creature with the power to cause taser-like paralysis using “static” (I’m guessing he’s especially dangerous in carpeted rooms). Pikachu was the main character in the anime TV show and has been the face of the Pokemon franchise ever since.

What many don’t realize, though, is that a real-life Pikachu — sans static power — can be found out West. Called the American pika, this small, rabbit-like animal has a bark that sounds like the squeak from a doggy chew toy. After viewing a short video, I declared it the cutest mammal on the planet.

But the most lovable rodent since Mickey Mouse now faces a foe more formidable than Charizard: climate change.

You see, the pika lives in high-elevation, mountainous habitats, where it relies upon a fairly heavy coat of fur to protect against the cold. That coat, however, makes it susceptible to overheating in summer months. Pika can die if their body temperature increases by as little as 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit; exposure to six hours of temperatures that we’d consider fairly comfortable — 77 degrees — can be lethal. What’s more, climate change is disrupting the growth cycles of local vegetation, which limits the amount of food the pika can store for the winter.

If climate change is left unchecked, rising temperatures will make the pika’s home uninhabitable by this uniquely American species. And the pika has lots of company — a study published in the journal Science last year predicts that one in six species could be wiped out if current climate trends continue. In 2014, the National Audubon Society released a shocking study that revealed nearly half the bird species in North America face extinction by 2080, primarily because of climate change.

So how do we keep Earth’s thermostat from going haywire and help our animal friends stay alive?

First, we must reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases — mainly carbon dioxide and methane — that are trapping heat in our atmosphere. To do this, we can enlist the power of the marketplace to reduce those emissions by placing a steadily rising fee on fossil fuels. A study from Regional Economic Models, Inc. shows that a fee on carbon increasing $10 per ton each year will reduce CO2 emissions by 52 percent within 20 years.

Amazingly, we can do all this while actively improving the American economy. Returning all net revenue from the carbon fee to households in equal shares — a policy known as Carbon Fee and Dividend — would put more spending money in American pockets, adding some 2.8 million jobs. It’s a win for workers and the environment alike.

In a moment akin to Babe Ruth calling his shot at the 1932 World Series, Citizens’ Climate Lobby has declared that Congress will pass a revenue-neutral carbon fee bill by the end of 2017. As many in the GOP rediscover the conservationist ethic of Theodore Roosevelt, the prospects for such legislation grow better and better.

The slogan for Pokemon, as millions of enthusiasts know, is “Gotta catch ’em all.” Those who are working to check the ravages of climate change and protect species like the American Pika might adopt a similar slogan: “Gotta save ’em all.”

Steve Valk is communications director for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Carbon Fee an Essential First Step on Climate

Op Ed by Peter Rolnick in the Press-Citizen August 17, 2016

Up until this year I’d never lobbied Congress, but in June I joined a thousand other volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby and met with members of Congress from Iowa to promote Carbon Fee and Dividend, a plan for a revenue-neutral fee on carbon.

Why spend time, energy and money to go to Washington and meet with my representatives? Of all the challenges we face as a country, global warming due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels is the most pressing. If we don’t address it in the next few years the world my grandchildren will face as they grow up will be unrecognizable: major coastal cities flooded, extreme droughts and floods. The resulting violence and massive immigration worldwide will make the current crisis in Syria look small. If we wait 20 years it will be too late — changes will have been set in motion that cannot be undone.

I am not saying that other problems we face are not deserving of our immediate and focused attention. I am just saying that the problem of global warming must be addressed immediately, even as we address those other problems.

Is it really that bad? Yes — the science is crystal clear, check the peer-reviewed literature. The supporting evidence is compelling. Locally: In the past few decades, Iowa has experienced multiple “500-year floods,” or floods that are expected to occur only every 500 years. Globally, the crisis in Syria and the resulting immigration overwhelming nations worldwide was precipitated in no small part by four years of severe drought preceding the civil war.

How does CF&D address the problem? It makes business and consumers pay the true cost of dumping greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Specifically, CF&D puts a fee on all coal, oil, etc., and the fee increases every year. The fee will make gasoline, home heating, etc., more expensive to consumers. However, all the fees collected are returned to American citizens as a dividend. Models show that lower income Americans will come out ahead, whereas higher-income Americans will come out very slightly behind. The increased spending by those who benefit, along with the increased investment in sustainable energy will create a net increase in jobs and in the economy. That is the main idea, though there is more to CF&D, including a way to protect American business from competition in countries that have no carbon fee.

Why is CF&D the best solution? It does not grow government, it is not a tax, it creates jobs and it does not unfairly burden the poor. It is more effective than a hodge-podge of regulations that vary from state to state. The market solves the problem: People will not invest in or purchase products that dump carbon into the atmosphere; American ingenuity will develop better ways to produce energy without warming the planet. Because the fee increases gradually, the change will happen in a predictable way over the course of a few decades. Economists, and the free market, love predictability — it is a conservative’s dream. Indeed, Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Shultz, strongly endorses CF&D. According to a non-partisan independent modeling company, CF&D, if implemented now, will cut our carbon emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels in 20 years. Thus Citizens’ Climate Lobby has launched a focused effort to get CF&D passed by the end of 2017. I am not saying CF&D is all we need to address climate change, but it will address the immediate problems most effectively.

Think Congress is too dysfunctional? Think again. The Climate Solutions Caucus in the House, which requires equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, contains 16 members and is growing. The members of Congress and staffers I met with, mostly Republicans, were all thoughtful and open to input. In spite of our problems, we still have a government by and for the people, but we must speak up.

If what I’ve said makes sense to you, one way to speak up is to write Senators Ernst and Grassley, and Representatives King, Young, Blum and Loebsack; let them know CF&D is a win-win solution to a pressing problem, and that you support it.