Three (or three million?) cheers to those who marched in September’s global climate strikes. Western New York’s rising interest in keeping our planet habitable is incredibly encouraging. One can hope that Rep. Brian Higgins and business leaders have noticed this interest, and will respond by instituting policies and business practices that promote sustainability.
That said, the most significant benefit of public marches is often the new excitement they generate among march participants themselves. The events can help marchers sense more keenly that others support the causes they care about, and that they belong to groups devoted to noble tasks. They also gain confidence that their efforts will succeed.
We can, therefore, expect increased enthusiasm for climate action following the climate strike. Such enthusiasm can fade later, though, lessening the pressure government and business leaders may feel to respond. Environmental groups – among churches, nongovernmental organizations, and so on – must leverage the enthusiasm without delay.
The most impactful way for marchers to harness their enthusiasm may be to inform the public, governments and businesses about market-driven, politically viable and effective policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (the primary cause of the climate crisis).
The best policy of that kind I’m aware of is the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763). The act will place a fee on carbon, spurring innovations in clean energy and driving down uses of dirty fuels.
All revenue is divided into equal monthly payments to everyone with a Social Security number, to spend as they see fit. About 60% of the population will either break even or come out ahead.
Such a system would quickly reduce U.S. carbon emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels while adding jobs.
Andrew Hartley, Ph.D.