As partisan tensions ratchet up in Washington, there’s still hope that progress can be made on the pressing problems of the day. It appears Republicans and Democrats are coming together on one issue that seemed intractable not long ago: climate change.
In the Senate, Indiana Republican Mike Braun and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons just announced the formation of a bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. Republicans Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mitt Romney (Utah) are reported to be among its early members. The Senate group complements the House Climate Solutions Caucus, of which Congressman Jack Bergman is a member. These are judgment-free zones where members of both parties can discuss climate solutions. There are myriad bipartisan climate bills in the House, thanks in no small part to this collaborative atmosphere.
The search for common ground on climate change reflects movement in public opinion that cannot be ignored. A CBS News poll last month found two-thirds of Americans view climate change as a crisis or serious problem, and a majority wants immediate action. Surveys by Ipsos and Newsy reflect that 77 percent of younger GOP voters regard climate change as a serious threat.
Congress is learning from more than polls. Volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby are carrying a direct message to their representatives: “Make climate a bridge issue, not a wedge issue.” CCL volunteers have held 1,131 meetings with congressional offices so far this year to bring the parties together on climate change.
With Republicans and Democrats communicating, what legislation are both likely to support? A price on carbon offers promising common ground. Thousands of U.S. economists support carbon pricing as an effective tool to reduce emissions. Recent surveys of 300 multinational corporations found 95 percent favor carbon pricing (Newsweek, September 2019). If carbon pricing includes a revenue return to Americans, support is four to one among all voters (Luntz Global).
This year, four carbon pricing bills have been introduced with bipartisan sponsorship. Among them, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) has attracted the most support, with 66 House members now signed on, including Republican Francis Rooney. This legislation would initiate a fee of $15/ton of carbon, rising by $10/ton annually. Revenue collected would be paid out equally to every household as a monthly dividend. Resources for the Future estimate this would reduce carbon emissions 47 percent by 2030. The bill targets 90 percent reductions by 2050.
In the Grand Traverse region support for this legislation has been expressed with 668 constituent letters, a City Commission resolution, and endorsements by a wide range of supporters, including: Great Lakes Stainless, Cherry Republic, Left Foot Charley, The Workshop Brewing Company, Rove Estate, Mawby Sparkling Wines, FLOW and Northport Energy. That support, here and throughout the country, sends a signal to Republican lawmakers that backing H.R. 763 can be a politically astute move.
Despite the current hyper-partisan atmosphere, elected officials are realizing that climate change is one area where differences must be set aside for the good of our nation and the world. Not only are they realizing it, but they’re starting to act on it.