In the home stretch of the 2020 campaign, presidential candidate Joe Biden leaned hard into the issue of climate change, giving a televised climate speech and running climate-focused ads in swing states.
The votes have been tallied, and candidate Biden is now president-elect Biden. But, as is often the case, his party doesn’t have unified control across the whole federal government. President Biden will govern alongside a Democratic House, a conservative Supreme Court, and a Senate that could either have a slim Republican or Democratic majority. That makes “working together” the order of the day.
Encouragingly, Biden understands that people of any party can and do care about climate change. In a speech this fall, he said, “Hurricanes don’t swerve to avoid red states or blue states. Wildfires don’t skip towns that voted a certain way. The impacts of climate change don’t pick and choose. It’s not a partisan phenomenon, and our response should be the same.”
Some Republicans in the Senate are expressing similar opinions. In October 2020, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) participated in a climate policy webinar with her climate-hawk colleague, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). She noted that bipartisanship gives a policy longevity, so she said, “Let’s work in a way that is going to get the support that you need from both Republicans and Democrats.”
According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 54 percent of Americans are either “alarmed” or “concerned” about climate change. Frankly, those numbers make sense. This year has made it starkly obvious that climate change is here and already hurting Americans. We need to move as quickly as we can to address the root cause of these extreme events: excess greenhouse gas emissions.
One fast-acting, effective climate policy we should enact is a carbon fee. Congress could charge a fee or price on all oil, gas and coal we use in the United States based on the greenhouse gas emissions they produce. Putting that price on pollution will steer our country toward cleaner options, slashing our harmful emissions across many areas of our economy at once. The revenue from this type of policy can even be given to Americans on a regular basis—a “carbon cashback,” if you will, that would put money in people’s pockets while we transition to a clean-energy economy. Here in Hudson County, 75 percent of our community supports regulating CO2 as a pollutant.
Carbon fee legislation like this exists in Congress now, known as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763). It has support from people and organizations across the political spectrum. New Jersey has 58 co-sponsors, including Congressman Albio Sires (D-08), who we are hoping to have his support again with the new Congress starting in January.
Our community is ready for Senator Menendez and Senator Booker to push forward to make this legislation the law of the land. Now is the time to act and congress should seize this opportunity.