In 1970, America celebrated the first Earth Day. Our parents and grandparents understood the importance of America’s common good. They ushered in a safer and healthier home for us with cleanups and educational programs, and through choices they made at the ballot box. Their votes led Congress to pass the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. These groundbreaking policies were passed with bipartisan super majorities, reflecting the will of the people for environmental action. 

This united approach to passing conservation measures is unheard of today.  Partisanship threatens the American priority of a pristine environment that helps us all thrive, grow safe food and earn livelihoods worry free. We would never teach our children to solve conflict with the chaotic, partisan fighting Congress utilizes daily.

The most threatening environmental problem we face is carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution. Rising CO2 levels are driving global changes and are now negatively impacting Georgia. Last year, Georgia’s peach farmers lost 85 percent of their crops. The warmer winter did not provide enough of the “chill hours” peaches needed for an abundant harvest. Our beautiful, economically vital Georgia coast had several costly floods associated with storms and historically high “king tides.” The dangers from rising CO2 are forecast to worsen and de-stabilize our entire climate. It’s time we take the wise bipartisan approach implemented on the first Earth Day.

We are already united. Public opinion surveys show that more than 70 percent of residents in every Congressional district served by the Marietta Daily Journal support regulating CO2 as a pollutant (“Geographic variation in opinions on climate change at state and local scales in the USA.” Nature Climate Change, 2016). With that much agreement among voters, why won’t our Congressmen and women act? 

Action is thwarted in several ways. Political bickering and the deliberate undermining of scientifically proven findings threaten public confidence in climate solutions. A fossil fuel industry seeking to maintain profits enables these political failures. Outdated laws that don’t reflect today’s climate understanding also prevent needed action. 

Fossil fuels are heavily subsidized. As a veteran, I am acutely aware of the vast deployment of America’s service members. Our military vigorously defends the flow of oil and gas around the world. The cost in lives and public expenditures is staggering.  Our combat troops experience devastating losses protecting fuel convoys in war zones. Much of our military infrastructure is in harm’s way from rising oceans.  Just imagine the cost to move coastal bases.  But again, partisanship prevents Congress from acting to rein in climate change and reduce these security threats.

Fortunately, members of the House of Representatives have formed the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus to heal the partisan divide on climate issues. The caucus has grown 400 percent since the 2016 Presidential election. A bipartisan group of 72 Congressmen and women is a remarkable achievement. Composed of half Republicans and half Democrats, the CSC vows it “will explore policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.”

As they overcome partisanship and move toward action, our legislators should consider one of the swiftest, least expensive ways to address climate change; pass a carbon pricing bill known as Carbon Fee and Dividend. Championed by nonpartisan Citizens’ Climate Lobby, CFD can dramatically reduce carbon pollution using a market-based approach. A predictable, steadily rising fee on carbon would speed clean energy innovation and growth while ending subsidized support for fossil fuels. CFD would also eliminate the need for regulations, a positive for conservatives who want to reduce government growth. 

The collected fees would be returned directly to American households on a monthly basis, protecting moderate and low-income families from rising energy prices. CFD would also stimulate jobs and economic growth. Notable conservative Republicans such as Reagan Cabinet members George Shultz and James Baker support this type of carbon pricing. 

Carbon Fee and Dividend may be the one solution that appeals to enough members of both parties to become legislation. It will take bipartisan, political courage by lawmakers like Representatives Karen Handel and Barry Loudermilk to pass it.   I hope they will follow the lead of other Republicans who are already moving forward on this issue. This political courage will spread more widely when Americans like you and I stay vigilant and ask them to take action.  Our children deserve a stable climate just like our parents thought we deserved clean air and water.

Jeff Joslin is an airline captain.

He lives in Brookhaven.

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