Carbon. Futurethink. And the Courage of our Young People’s Convictions.

How about a proven innovative measure to address climate change? In November’s election madness is a breath of sanity — Washington’s ballot measure to make the state move toward fairer taxes and clean energy.

Based on the simple idea of using taxes to discourage behaviors we want to discourage, the measure called I-732 asks voters to support a revenue-neutral plan to achieve several important goals: It taxes pollution, not people, using a method of taxing carbon that’s already proving successful in British Columbia – as well as some 20 nations around the world.

“The way to get less pollution is to make polluting expensive,” says Yorum Bauman, an economist leading Carbon WA, the grassroots non-partisan group sponsoring the I-732 effort. And the simplest way to do that is with a tax on carbon released into the air.

Yes, the T-word is usually met with growls or teeth gnashing, and with good reason: Washington has one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation. So I-732 aims to make the taxes Washington residents already paying more fair — in ways that can improve our state, our nation and our planet.

I-732 addresses tax fairness in several ways.  

First, it will tax CO2 polluting fuels at $15 per ton.  By making polluting expensive, you encourage market forces to spur the development of new, energy-smart technologies as well as other creative ways to improve conservation.

Next, funds from the carbon tax will replace those lost by reducing our regressive sales taxes by 1% across the board. While everyone will benefit from a reduced sales tax, two groups — working families and manufacturing – will benefit even more. Carbon tax revenues will fund a $1,500 tax credit for working families and a reduction in the B & O (Business & Occupation) tax for manufacturing.

Bauman estimates that most households will pay a few hundred dollars a year more for fossil fuels and a few hundred dollars a year less for everything else. Which means individuals can decide on what changes in spending or saving would benefit their own particular circumstances.

 Why CO2?

Reducing carbon pollution makes for cleaner air, and healthier people and may also help move the Earth’s climate back from the point of no return.

no-human-aliveOur planet shattered heat records for an unprecedented 12 straight months when April topped the old record by half a degree, NOAA scientists reported. Then came summer. Although an El Nino contributed, no human alive has seen more  months this hot before.

Let’s just look at carbon budgets — a simple measurement climate scientists prefer. They calculate that, to keep from raising the global temperature 1.5 °C, we can put no more than 720 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Since the mid-19th century, we’ve already added 610 billion tons. That leaves a residual “budget” of just 110 billion tons.

Right now, we humans are emitting about 11 billion tons per year – which means our remaining budget will be all used up in just 10 years.

And the next generation is leading the way.

Eight young Washington State citizens already set a national example, winning a legal case requiring statewide climate change actions — requiring the state’s Ecology department to establish rules to limit CO2 emissions in Washington according to what scientists say is needed to protect our oceans and climate system.

“The effect of this decision is that for the first time in the United States, a court of law has ordered a state agency to consider the most current and best available climate science when deciding to regulate carbon dioxide emissions,” said Andrea Rodgers of the Western Environmental Law Center, the attorney for the youth petitioners.

Anything that takes CO2 out of the atmosphere helps –- from planting trees to composting food scraps.

No question – now’s the time for bigger actions.

If Washington voters adopt the country’s first carbon tax, leading the way for  carbon-tax political action can have an impact that reaches across the entire country  — and beyond.

Fingers crossed that this ground-breaking measure gets the votes it deserves.


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A freelance writer who lives near Olympic National Park in a house overlooking the Salish Sea, I'm nourished by Mother Nature and enjoy exploring the places where science, spirit, and story come together. Part science geek, part spiritual feminist, part Earth-loving tree-hugger, I continue learning the many ways that how we think and what we believe helps shape our world. Quantum physics shows us that our personal energy is too often overlooked as force for positive change; indigenous wisdom leads us to connect with all beings in a good way. I've told the research stories of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado, Boulder, and contributed regular columns for newspapers in Boulder, Colo., Sequim and Port Angeles Washington.

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