UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, April 2019

UCSF Faculty Help to Put a Price on Carbon

Big, bold climate solutions are needed urgently to solve the climate crisis—the most significant threat to public health of our generation. Citizens’ Climate Lobby, known as CCL, uses democratic engagement of citizens to advocate as a solution to climate change. CCL trains and supports volunteers to build relationships with elected representatives, both democrats and republicans, in order to influence climate policy. 

Four UCSF-affiliated faculty, including Robin Cooper, UCSF Assistant Clinical Professor, Psychiatry, have joined the local San Francisco Chapter of CCL, which has 103 active members. “There is clearly recognition among many people at the University of California that climate change is imminent urgent threat to health care across many, many health parameters,” stressed Dr. Cooper, who has spearheaded a letter from ad hoc physician leaders, including UCSF physicians as signatories that compels Nancy Pelosi to put climate change high on her agenda because of its profound health care impacts. As we have written about in a previous story and highlighted in UCSF’s Climate Changes Health campaign, there is a clear correlation between acting on the climate crisis and protecting human health.

Carbon Tax?
CCL is behind a bill introduced in Congress in 2018, and re-introduced this year, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763), which puts a price on pollution. According to CCL, it is a bi-partisan climate solution that will drive down America’s carbon pollution while unleashing American technology innovation and ingenuity. The bi-partisan measure is sponsored by Rep. Theodore Deutch (D-Florida) and supported by both Republicans and Democrats. “This bill would enact a carbon fee and dividend program to lower carbon emissions and thereby curb climate change,” explained Stephen Reichling, a volunteer with CCL’s San Francisco Chapter.

A carbon fee and dividend program will charge a fee on fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas), which is intended to make fuel prices reflect the hidden costs that burning carbon has on society and the planet. The money collected from that fee is then equally distributed to all Americans as a dividend. Fossil fuel prices go up as a result of the fee, but the dividend insulates consumers from the price increase. Meanwhile, non-emitting fuels, which don’t have the fee, become more cost-competitive by comparison, thus creating incentives for consumers to switch to non-carbon-polluting energy and spurring innovation in non-emitting energy technologies, both of which drive down CO2 emissions.

While a carbon tax has been controversial in the past, the United Nations recent landmark report on the dangers of climate change, commonly referred to as the IPCC report, stresses that putting a high price on carbon dioxide emissions is essential for getting global warming under control. William D. Nordhaus, the Yale economist who won the Nobel Prize for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis, predicts that carbon emissions would plummet if governments placed a price on carbon dioxide emissions and advocates for the use of a uniformly applied carbon tax. According to the Wall Street Journal, a carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary. 

Not long ago, a carbon tax was politically untouchable. “Ironically, the president’s rejection of climate science, and his fossil fuel-focused agenda, may have helped usher in an era when carbon taxation is politically thinkable,” explains Inside Climate News

According to CCL, the bill is good for people, the planet, and the economy. By returning all of the collected tax dollars to Americans, the bill is revenue neutral, which has created bipartisan support. It will stimulate new job growth, creating an estimated 2.1 million new jobs.  Low and moderate income people are protected from carrying the burden of the transition to a clean economy. But most importantly, it is projected to reduce U.S. carbon emissions by at least 40% in the first 12 years. For more information on how the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act would work, go HERE.

Write Congress
“What can I do?” you might ask. CCL has an on-line tool for writing to Congress to support H.R. 763. Click HERE and send a letter to your Congress person. Or you can join the SF Chapter of CCL—click HERE for information or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Chapter meetings are on the second Saturday of every month from 10-12 at Manny’s Café at 16th and Valencia. 

Learn More

“10 Fast Facts about Revenue-Neutral Carbon Fees” 

Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act 

“Bipartisan carbon fee and dividend bill now before U.S. Congress” 

The Medical Climate Consortium on Climate and Health

Image: iStock

Story: Green Impact