Last summer was hotter than normal again. Hundreds of wildfires raged from Canada to California. This fall, powerful hurricanes came ashore in North Carolina and Florida, destroying beach towns and flooding coastal cities.
A few weeks ago, a United Nations report by leading scientist said that we only have a dozen years to make significant changes that prevent further temperature increases from causing more fires and droughts and to prevent hurricanes from being more destructive.
To date, national leadership in Congress has not been able to agree on how to plan for a sea level rise of three feet as early as 2040. Now it is up to the Western states to step forward and provide leadership.
I-1631, on the November ballot, ends the debate over what we should do and provides funding to make a shift in our primary energy source. This initiative offers an opportunity to prevent damage to cities, loss of jobs and to invest in clean energy before the damage done by climate change is irreversible.
It funds forest initiatives to reduce forest fires. This Initiative is written by labor unions, tribes and environmental groups to benefit people, not by politicians to benefit the oil and coal industries.
The initiative requires industry to pay a fee to pollute. The money collected will be invested in clean air programs that retain jobs in the industries affected by the increase in carbon fees. And it also funds the industry to change to a cleaner fuel.
When passed, Washington will put a carbon fee on automobiles and trucks. This fee will add 14 cents to a gallon of gasoline. The fee is returned to the community with 70 percent set aside for clean air and clean-energy investments, with 25 percent for clean water and restoring forests, and 5 percent for communities.
The petroleum industry is opposing this fee with a multi-million dollar media campaign. They will claim that 14 cents a gallon is an outrage. The outrage was that the industry raised gas prices more than 40 cents in the last year.
When passed, this carbon fee will fund the change in energy sources from fossil fuels to renewals. Utilities could gain credits for certain types of investments. It also carves out exemptions for some trade-sensitive industries.
Investing in clean energy, like solar and wind, will reduce future cost of utilities and the cost of manufacturing. Such lower energy costs benefit everyone: industry, residents and workers.
November’s election is a chance for people of Washington to set a precedent and to be the leaders in preventing damaging effects of climate change. It’s an investment in renewal energy where industry, utilities and people benefit from lower rates and the efficiencies of renewable energy.
Kirk Kirkland is a Tacoma writer and an environmental advocate.