Members of the local Mercer Island business community were informed at their Nov. 2 meeting that if they want to take action on climate change, they’ll need to engage at the national level.
The speaker at the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce meeting was Jonathan Shakes, a 20-year Island resident and volunteer with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a nonprofit, non-partisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change.
Shakes started the meeting off by showing a picture of his family.
“I love my kids very much, but I have to admit they have a bad habit. They don’t always pick up after themselves,” he said. “But let’s turn it around for a moment. We know climate change is happening … and we adults are doing nothing about it. Effectively, we’re telling our children that they’ll have to clean up our mess, and that’s irresponsible.”
Shakes said that it’s important to raise awareness and make changes on a personal level, such as turning the thermostat down a few degrees, but that it’s not enough.
“That helps, but it’s not going to solve the global problem,” he said.
Shakes decided to become more involved during the debate over I-732, an initiative to create a carbon emission tax on certain fossil fuels and fossil fuel-generated electricity in Washington state. It appeared on the November 2016 ballot, and was rejected.
Shakes said that these types of changes are difficult to implement on a state level anyway. He found CCL to be a great outlet where he could use his limited time to make a big difference.
CCL aims to empower citizens to connect with and influence their members of Congress to get them to prioritize climate change solutions. The group focuses on one in particular: a national carbon fee.
Its carbon fee and divided proposal has received support from both sides of the aisle. Shakes and CCL have worked with Rep. Dave Reichert (R) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D) on a climate solutions caucus to debate the policy.
Shakes called it a “market-based approach.” The adage of “if we want less of this stuff, make it more expensive” applies, he said.
Taking action on climate change is sometimes seen as hurtful to the business environment, Shakes said, but a carbon pricing policy could help consumers and boost the GDP, while also countering the health and environmental effects of global warming.
Specifically, carbon fee and dividend is a revenue-neutral carbon tax that returns 100 percent of the net revenue directly to households. CCL says it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 52 percent below 1990 levels within 20 years, while growing the economy and saving lives.
“It’s not a tax if the government doesn’t keep the money,” Shakes said, noting that the policy would create green jobs and put more spending money into the pockets of Americans.
Shakes and CCL are working with Washington’s legislators to get them to bring a bill to the floor, likely this session. But it will also need support from a White House that has denied climate science.
When asked by a chamber member what chance CCL has to convince the president on the merits of its proposal, Shakes responded that he didn’t know.
“All I know is he’s unpredictable,” he said.
But he said that he would be interested in seeing if the Mercer Island City Council and School Board would debate, and hopefully endorse, the policy.
See citizensclimatelobby.org for more.