VOICES: Carbon pricing and dividends policy would put Ohio interests first

Jack Miranda is a sophomore at The Ohio State University, studying philosophy, politics, and economics.

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Jack Miranda is a sophomore at The Ohio State University, studying philosophy, politics, and economics.

Extreme weather has always been a fact of life in America. But few of us can recall a time like this summer, when nearly every region of the country was hit by drought, wildfires, flooding or deadly storms. As climate change accelerates, these events are only expected to grow more frequent and severe.

Here in Ohio, we face serious risks. Since 2014, there have been 19 weather disasters in our state that have inflicted over $1 billion, each, in damage. Extreme precipitation also looms as a major challenge, as nearly 400,000 Ohioans live in areas with elevated risk of inland flooding. Just two years ago in Cincinnati, landslides caused by heavy rainfall closed critical highways and cut the value of some Ohioans’ homes in half. In Dayton, climate change has meant more severe weather seasons. Tornadoes, especially, have increased in the 2010s versus the 2000s.

What Mother Nature is telling us is that it is no longer wise, nor sustainable, to sit back and let climate change intensify. Fortunately, we have elected leaders like Senator Sherrod Brown who understand this — and who also see the clear advantages of a proactive strategy.

“There are all sorts of opportunities, in communities in every state that come with taking climate change seriously,” Sen. Brown noted in a recent hearing.

What’s less appreciated in the current conversation is the vital importance of carbon pricing. No other policy would work as quickly to slash carbon emissions, while also creating opportunity, especially here in Ohio, for clean energy investments, business growth and new jobs. It should form the core of our climate response.

A carbon price would charge fossil fuel companies a fee for their emissions, creating a clear economic incentive to embrace cleaner alternatives. Without it, any measures to help our environment — whether it’s promoting electric vehicle manufacturing here in the US or the growth of the clean power industry — will be slower and harder to implement. As U.S. Treasury Secretary Yellen outlined earlier this year, “we cannot solve climate change without effective carbon pricing.”

Yellen isn’t the only one who supports carbon pricing. More than 3,500 economists, including a record 28 Nobel laureates have publicly endorsed a carbon fee and dividend approach to address climate change, where the revenues raised from the fee are returned directly to citizens. This summer, more than 50 leading Ohio economists followed with their own statement in support of the carbon dividends solution.

Returning revenue from a carbon fee to citizens as direct checks would protect consumers as we transition to clean energy. This stands in sharp contrast to a regulatory approach to cutting emissions, which would raise energy costs without any financial cushion. Put simply, the carbon dividends approach would ensure big companies pay for their emissions, while also putting money back into the hands of everyday Ohioans. In fact, the vast majority of Ohio workers and families emerge with more money in their pockets — underscoring the unique populist appeal of this approach.

At the same time, this plan would hold countries like China, India, and Russia accountable for their pollution and also strengthen American manufacturing. By placing a similar fee at the border on the carbon emissions of foreign goods, it would hand a competitive advantage to U.S. manufacturers, who are already much cleaner and more efficient than our overseas competitors. As U.S. businesses outcompete their foreign counterparts and sell more American-made products, they will grow and create manufacturing jobs here in Ohio.

It’s time to act on climate with a forward-thinking policy. A carbon pricing and dividends plan has the power to accelerate a low-carbon future and, with it, American prosperity. This policy will reduce the risk of severe weather events and unlock economic opportunity —
especially here at home.

Jack Miranda is a sophomore at The Ohio State University, studying philosophy, politics, and economics.

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