Action: Support SB 6203 to Reduce Carbon Pollution

I traveled to Olympia to testify at a hearing in favor of Senate Bill 6203 – “Reducing carbon pollution by moving to a clean energy economy.” This bill (introduced by Gov. Jay Inslee) will move us in the right direction on climate by placing a cost on CO2 pollution, investing the money raised in efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and creating jobs in green energy production, while protecting vulnerable communities from the adverse effects of climate disruption and from bearing too much of the economic burden of the transition off fossil fuels.

Use the link to find out more about the bill, leave a comment, and to contact your legislators to encourage them to vote YES on this important legislation.

In my testimony I reminded the Committee that there are thousands of other people in the State of Washington who support meaningful action on climate change who are unable to attend hearings in Olympia because they are busy working and/or unable to travel long distances. Like me, they know not only that climate change is real, but that we are already suffering the effects of a rise in global temperatures. Superstorms, droughts, wildfires, ocean acidification, melting ice caps and rising sea levels are but a taste of the climate chaos to come if we fail to act.

Despite the urgency of addressing this crisis, I heard testimony from a number of business lobbyists urging the legislature to slow down the pace of climate action. And yet, we have known for more than a century that burning fossil fuels releases heat-trapping gases, and scientists have been able to calculate the amount of warming it will cause for at least that long. The first president to be warned of the looming danger was Lyndon Johnson, and that was more than 50 years ago. During all of that time, we have failed to halt or even to reduce significantly the rise in levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide which now stands at over 400 parts per million when we know that anything over 350 ppm is a danger to life as we know it. I ask you: How much slower can we possibly go? Given the damage we have already inflicted to the planet (borne mainly by disadvantaged communities), we have a moral imperative to speed up the pace of change, not to slow it down.

The lobbyists’ call to “slow down” was usually accompanied by a second plea, “don’t tax us, our industry is trade-exposed.” I pointed out that in the modern global marketplace, every single man, woman and child on the planet is “trade-exposed.” Our trade agreements don’t protect workers and so jobs move from one continent to another, leaving union workers here unemployed, and exposing non-union workers abroad to abuse from corporations intent on paying the lowest wage possible while not being held accountable for unsafe working conditions or environmental degradation. A moderate cost applied to carbon emissions in Washington State is not going to change that global dynamic, and any impacts to “trade-exposed” industries here will be offset by investments in a homegrown clean energy economy that will create jobs and spur innovation. We run the risk of those benefits going to other countries and other states if we fail to act now.

Another criticism of this type of legislation is that it is an example of government picking winners and losers, when those decisions should be left up to the whims of the marketplace. I am in favor of this bill because if we fail to act to restore the natural balance of our ecosystems, the natural forces of the planet will restore that balance. Those natural forces are powerful and sometimes violent and balance will be restored with no regard for destruction of property or loss of human life. In that eventuality, we will all be the losers.

Governor Inslee introduced SB 6203 saying, “We need to fulfill a ten year old promise to our people…but it takes leadership, it takes people who want to work together, and it takes people who understand that inaction is simply not an option.” I agree wholeheartedly with the Governor, and I would add only that leadership often means doing the right thing even when that is not supported by all your constituents, not supported by your party, and not supported by businesses and PACs that make donations to political campaigns.

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