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Column: Carbon pricing is essential to address climate change

For the Valley News
Published: 9/12/2021 10:00:04 PM
Modified: 9/12/2021 10:00:07 PM

From deadly heat waves and wildfires on the West Coast to extreme storms like Hurricane Ida, climate change is knocking at our door. While it can be difficult to link any individual climate event to our warming planet, we know that climate change will make impacts like these more frequent and severe.

In New Hampshire, the risks are especially pronounced. From a thriving snow sports industry that could face shorter and more intense winters, as research by the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy showed, to our bustling coastal communities that could experience greater flooding and storms, as the New Hampshire Coastal Risk and Hazards Commission reported, climate change threatens to reduce tourism, cost jobs and shrink the state’s economy.

That’s why we need timely action, and why it’s more important than ever that Congress rises to meet the moment.

Fortunately, a clear and growing majority of Americans want leadership on climate change — 53% of registered voters said it should be a high or very high priority, according to a recent survey by Yale and George Mason University — and Congress is beginning to respond. From the Trillion Trees Act proposed by Republicans to the Civilian Climate Corps proposed by Democrats, there are a wide range of climate proposals.

However, missing in action is one of the most important climate tools of them all: carbon pricing. As Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has underscored, “We cannot solve climate change without effective carbon pricing.”

No other policy mechanism would work as effectively and efficiently to deliver emissions reductions, while also creating a level playing field for energy innovation and competition. Through a simple market signal, carbon pricing would accelerate the use of renewable energy and guide the economy in a cleaner direction.

What’s more, returning carbon price revenue to citizens as direct checks would help make the policy both popular and durable. This approach would put money back in the pockets of Americans workers and families and provide a salient benefit that voters recognize and appreciate. We need only look to the COVID-19 relief checks and child tax credits to see how popular these direct checks would be.

Given these merits, carbon pricing and dividends have earned a remarkable breadth of support — from economists to business leaders to environmental experts to students and more.

More than 3,500 US economists, including many in New Hampshire and Vermont, have endorsed this policy approach. So, too, have the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, as well as leading companies and business associations.

On college campuses, more than 400 student body presidents across the country, including from the University of New Hampshire and Dartmouth College, have united in support of carbon dividends. This group includes young Republicans and Democrats alike, highlighting the bipartisan appeal of this market-based plan.

And just a few weeks ago, more than 700 high school student leaders from all 50 states — including winners of national science, debate and economics competitions, Scripps National Spelling Bee champions, and more — joined forces to advance the carbon dividends strategy.

On climate change, good intentions are welcome. But what matters most is results. That’s why, with so much at stake for our generation, young people are coalescing around this critical policy solution.

As the nation’s eyes turn to Congress, it is time for our elected leaders to do the same. U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., has already proven herself to be an environmental champion, including her recent work to secure funding for clean water and coastal resiliency efforts here in New Hampshire.

Now we must stick the landing and unleash the single most powerful tool available to address the climate challenge. Congress has the clear opportunity and authority. It just needs to act.

For young voters like me, no issue is of greater consequence than climate change, and no cause of greater urgency than delivering solutions that actually go the distance.

At this pivotal moment, leading on carbon pricing would help secure our futures and, with it, our generation’s eternal gratitude.

Katherine Tucker, of Elkins, N.H., is a graduate student at the Yale School of the Environment.

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