I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change. We’re currently on a path to steadily add more carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere and consequently have more natural disasters. Burning fossil fuels, the largest source of CO2 emissions, is perceived as vital to our society and economy. Civilization’s status quo for continued and growing use of fossil fuels is a big problem. How do we move towards an energy future and an economy that yields a hospitable Earth rather than increasing environmental calamities?
Climate change is an inconvenience and will require a conscious change within society. Economic growth at any cost is not the best path forward. How can we work together to change our current path needing more mountaintop removal to obtain coal, more fracking for natural gas, and more intensive chemical processes to extract oil from tar sands? We’re going to have to consciously intervene and create a new path. There’s plenty of coal, gas, and oil to consume; there are large industries and corporations striving to make the most through our fossil fuel consumption. If we want children and grandchildren to have an environmentally stable and beautiful home, we must stop the steady rise of CO2 emissions now.
Solutions exist: ending oil subsidies, taxing carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and increasing the efficiency of everything that uses fossil fuels. Many economists say the best way to address climate change is through a carbon tax. Let’s shift towards a better future. We can tax the fossil fuels in relation to the amount of carbon they release. Gasoline, driving, and all things that relied on fossil fuels would cost more. As things cost more, the economic engine of our society would respond and gradually migrate towards lower cost (and lower carbon polluting) alternatives. Through the tax, we would be putting a value on fewer hurricanes, hail storms, droughts, tornadoes, and floods. We are currently paying to recover from the various environmental disasters without minimizing future disasters. Instead let’s pay for a more carbon neutral future with fewer disasters. The carbon tax could be revenue neutral. It could be offset by income or other taxes to reduce the burden on those who can least afford it. If we start now, we can gradually introduce the tax and steadily increase the price for emitting more carbon.
This past weekend, hundreds went to Somerset, Mass. to shut down New England’s largest coal-fired power plant. These protesters asked for Governor Patrick to shut down the Brayton Point Power Station and meet the state’s additional energy needs through renewables such as Cape Wind and increased energy efficiency. I am encouraged to see so many people demanding a change and risking arrest (44 were arrested in the protest). While I’m not ready to risk arrest, I do want to migrate to a better future where CO2 is considered a pollutant and our society consumes fewer fossil fuels. Together we can intervene and work towards a future with less environmental turmoil. Will you join me?
Nicole Carpenter, Shelburne