by Mark Reynolds and Ryan T. Palmateer
It appears Republicans and Democrats are coming together on one issue that seemed intractable not long ago: climate change.
In the Senate, Republican Senator Mike Braun of Indiana is teaming up with Delaware Democrat Chris Coons to form the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. And in the House, a bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus was established in 2016.
Republicans and Democrats are seeking common ground on climate change because public opinion has reached a tipping point that cannot be ignored. A recent CBS News poll found two-thirds of Americans view climate change as a crisis or serious problem, and a majority want immediate action.
Overwhelming majorities of younger GOP voters regard climate change as a serious threat, too: 77 percent of them said so in a survey by Ipsos and Newsy this fall.
It’s not just polling that is motivating Congress — it is citizens. Volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby are carrying a clear 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.
A bipartisan approach to solving climate change is essential because passing legislation requires buy-in from both sides of the aisle. Regardless of which party controls the House, the Senate and White House today, political winds shift and policies with broad support will withstand those shifts.
Now that we have Republicans and Democrats talking to each other about climate solutions, what major climate legislation will they support together?
A price on carbon offers promising common ground. Thousands of U.S. economists support carbon pricing. Newsweek recently surveyed 300 multinational corporations and found that 95 percent favor mandatory carbon pricing. And according to Luntz Global, carbon pricing that includes a revenue return to Americans has four to one support among all voters.
Of four bipartisan carbon pricing bills introduced this year, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) has attracted the most support, with 68 House members now signed on, including Republican Francis Rooney of Florida. This legislation would initiate a fee of $15 per ton of carbon, rising by $10 per ton each year. All revenue would be paid out equally to every household. In 10 years, a family of four would receive an annual “carbon dividend” of about $3,500. Resources for the Future estimates this policy would reduce carbon emissions 47 percent by 2030.
Here in San Juan County, a majority of voters twice have approved a carbon price (I-732 and I-163) so support for H.R. 763 should be strong in our county. The Madrona Institute has endorsed H.R. 763, joining many businesses, prominent individuals and local governments across the country who also have endorsed the bill.
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.
Mark Reynolds is the executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Ryan T. Palmateer is a member of the San Juan Islands chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.