Severe storms underscore urgency to rein in climate change

Dear Editor:

The 2020 hurricane season is shaping up to be one for the record books, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicting as many as 25 named storms with up to 11 of them reaching hurricane status. The destruction inflicted by these storms is astronomical and expected to get worse. According to NOAA, tropical cyclones in the U.S. between 1980 and 2018 caused $927.5 billion in damage.

Scientific studies have found that as our climate warms, primarily from human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, ocean temperatures are getting warmer, resulting in more severe and destructive storms.

One particular worrisome phenomenon associated with warmer ocean temperatures is rapid intensification of hurricanes, which can catch coastal residents off guard. Hurricane Laura this year intensified rapidly, going from a Category 2 to a Category 4 hurricane in less than 36 hours when it battered Louisiana.

On our current trajectory, temperatures will continue to climb, bringing storms that cause greater destruction from higher winds, heavier rainfall and greater storm surge because of rising sea levels. And when these storms knock power out, another impact of climate change — deadly heat — creates life-threatening conditions in the wake of those storms. With the impact of climate change being felt here and now, we find ourselves running out of time to bring down the heat-trapping pollution that is warming our world. We must therefore use all the tools at our disposal to curtail those emissions.

One of the most effective tools is an ambitious price on carbon that will speed up the transition to a low- or zero-carbon economy. A tax or fee on carbon can have a positive impact on low- and middle-income families, too. How? Take the revenue from a carbon fee and distribute it to all households.

Legislation to implement an effective carbon price while protecting the economic well-being of people has been introduced in the U.S. House as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763). The carbon fee is expected to drive down carbon emissions 40% in the first 12 years and 90% by 2050. A household impact study released in August found that among households in the lowest fifth economically, 96% would receive “carbon dividends” that exceed their carbon costs.

We’d like to thank Congressman Albio Sires (NJ-8) for cosponsoring the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. We deeply appreciate your support and encourage additional congress members from both sides of the aisle to join the 82 House members who are currently cosponsors of this bill.

The increasingly destructive storms ravaging our nation should serve as a warning that our climate could one day be unbearable if we fail to take the actions necessary to rein in climate change. An effective price on carbon with money given to households can put us on the path to preserving a livable world.

Madison Schaefer is a volunteer with the Hoboken chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Madison Schaefer