By David Foutch, Lopez Island
It is certainly prudent for the county and private owners of waterfront property to take reasonable and cost-effective steps to prepare for sea-level rise. It is also prudent to put some effort into reducing greenhouse gas pollution to minimize the amount of sea-level rise that will occur. But San Juan County’s contribution to this pollution is negligible, compared to the worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases. Even if everyone in the county could cut carbon emissions to zero today, this would have no discernible effect on the future sea-level rise.
So how can the county and its residents affect global carbon emissions? First, the county should join the city of Philadelphia, Santa Fe County, the state of California and 60 other municipalities across the country who each have passed a resolution calling on Congress to pass carbon fee-and-dividend legislation. This legislation would set a gradually rising fee on fossil fuels. Doing this is forecast to cut U.S. fossil fuel use in half in just 20 years, without creating an energy shortage. The fees would then be returned to American families in equal shares, protecting them from higher energy costs. This policy is forecast to help — not harm — the U.S. economy, creating jobs and growing the gross domestic product. The policy also includes a border adjustment, which will encourage our trading partners to put a fee on fossil fuels and which will prevent U.S. companies from moving work to countries without such a fee. Because the United States trades with nearly every nation in the world, the border adjustment will cause reductions in emissions globally. So, it is very much in the interest of San Juan County for such a policy to be implemented. And passing a resolution in support of it would cost much, much less than the county will have to spend to adapt to sea-level rise.
Further, county residents should join Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which is laser-focused on persuading Congress to pass this legislation. Citizens’ Climate Lobby is recognized and praised for its bipartisan and effective work. This work includes the formation of the Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives, which now has 62 members: 31 Republicans and 31 Democrats. Citizens’ Climate Lobby itself has 90,000 supporters — ordinary Americans like you and me — and is doubling in size each year. Isn’t it worth a few hours of your time each month to add your voice to theirs? Dr. James Hansen said that when it comes to climate action, “There is no more effective step you could take than to become an active member of this group.”
Sea-level rise is coming, and we islanders should get ready. But we should also add our voices to the many others calling on Congress to take strong action on climate change by passing carbon fee-and-dividend legislation.