• Katerina Krader

Support for the EICDA – A Stepping Stone Towards Neutrality

Photo Courtesy of Columbia University

The "For the Many Not Just Me" Campaign wants to express its support of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). The EICDA could have extensive influence, not only for the great state of Florida but for the entire United States of America. Two Florida congressmen have proposed the bipartisan bill, Ted Deutch (Dem) and Francis Rooney (Rep), to initiate policy changes that may mitigate against the increasingly prevalent impacts of climate change. This legislation would mandate a carbon tax on all fossil fuels that contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The tax would be applied on either the producers or the importers of fuel and would be set at $15 per ton of CO2 with annual increases of $10 a ton. The tax will continue to increase until GHG emissions reach 10% of 1990 levels and will be subject to adjustments dependent on future developments. Furthermore, the tax would be revenue-neutral, which allows American households to receive all tax profits. The EICDA intends to drastically reduce United States emissions by shifting the economy towards sustainable energy production. If the bill is passed, then it will provide a framework to reduce GHG gas emissions by 90% by the year 2050. The support of this bill will initiate efforts to protect citizens against the impending threat of becoming climate refugees.

As global GHG emissions continue to rise, the rapidly accelerating change in climate has developed into a global emergency and mitigation has become an international priority. Greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere, which causes the atmosphere to trap in heat, creating what is known as a greenhouse effect and warming the climate over time. This change in climate can melt permafrost, shift ocean currents, raise sea-levels, and critically alter weather patterns. Biologically diverse wetland areas, such as coastal marshes, prairie potholes, and glacial systems are especially vulnerable. Still, the environment is not the only thing that is at risk. Climate change will have substantial social and economic impacts alongside with environmental degradation. Natural disasters and droughts will increase in magnitude and frequency. Public health will suffer as strains of disease spread and mutate in the warmer temperatures. The legislative branch must assist in bringing about sustainable solutions to prevent future damage. The United States must begin to adapt to the inevitable loss and do what they can to prevent further injuries. The EICDA has the potential to reduce US GHG emissions by more than one-third within ten years. If implemented, the EICDA would be a huge step forward in the battle against climate change, with almost immediate results. Already, Congress has made several measures to ensure that the EICDA does not have a high social cost.

By providing the carbon tax dividends directly to households, policymakers hope to ease concerns about rising energy costs. A direct deposit is necessary to ensure that producers and not consumers felt the actual cost of the tax. The agricultural and national defense industries would be eligible for exemptions from the carbon tax to help maintain national security and stable food prices, while tariffs will be placed on imported fuel in order the ensure that US producers remain competitive.

If the bill is implemented, it will facilitate declines in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions while encouraging the transition to renewable energy sources. However, to ease the pressure on industries, EICDA would suspend the regulatory authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over CO2 sources, which are included in the proposed carbon tax, with the expectation that companies will regulate their own emissions to pay the lowest tax possible. If emissions are not significantly reduced within 10 years, EPA authority will be reestablished, and fuel industries will be subject to both costs. The creation of new jobs will overtime balance the dismantling of the conventional energy industries, as all levels of the supply chain are restructured to meet new environmental standards.

To ensure a cohesive response to climate change it is necessary to combine our knowledge of past environmental problems with future adaptation strategies, consistently altering approaches as research and development progress. Scientists will not be able to predict all the consequences of a changing climate, so policymakers must be prepared to adjust accordingly and expect the unexpected. Climate change models are unable to predict impacts in all sectors accurately because there are too many shifting variables to consider. This uncertainty means that effects will likely be even more severe than currently anticipated. Water availability, agriculture, human health, and ecosystem services will soon experience volatility unless adaptation and mitigation strategies are implemented. These factors must be taken into consideration when building interconnected strategies to tackle CO2 emission reduction.

Once passed, the shift in responsibility for carbon costs is one of the main changes. Currently, the cost of carbon emissions is externalized, meaning that the cost of carbon is not included in the market price of fuel. This exclusion leads to society paying the price of industrial pollution. The EICDA would force companies to internalize the carbon cost, thus reducing the social cost. Without policies like this one, it is unlikely that corporations would have the incentive to prevent externalities. Policies such as the EICDA must be put into place to eliminate the incentive for industries to put profits above public health and safety.

Although seven bills have been proposed to apply taxes to carbon emissions, the EICDA has the most widespread congressional approval, with 80 Representatives co sponsoring the bill. Amongst those sponsoring the EICDA are 79 democrats and 1 republican. The "Green New Deal," a proposed legislative package, also supports the implementation of a revenue-neutral carbon tax to reduce GHG emissions. However, its main difference is the intention of complete decarbonization. The "Green New Deal" also has a greater emphasis on the multifaceted transformation of the economy. To maximize success, the EICDA must couple with programs that assist laborers in integrating greener systems as emerging sectors replace dying ones. The alternative to a carbon tax would be to implement a cap and trade program in which emission credits are purchased and transferred between sectors. In both scenarios, environmental economists must assign a monetary value to carbon by taking the environmental and social costs of air pollution into consideration, which proves to be a complicated analysis.

Florida, like all coastal regions, is particularly vulnerable when it comes to climate change. Rising sea levels cause devastating coastal erosion, completely inundating some cities. Still, much of the state's water supply is subject to saltwater intrusion. Climate change can potentially render Florida completely inhospitable or, at the least, destroy its tourist, agriculture, and aquaculture driven economy. It is in Florida constituents' best interest that Congress implements policies to minimize emissions before a point of no return is reached. Seeing as Florida is the United States' winter breadbasket, it is likely that the loss of agricultural productivity in the region could increase food insecurity nationwide.

The impacts do not just affect Floridians. However, every global citizen is a stakeholder when it comes to climate change. In America, 39% of citizens live in coastal communities, and more are migrating towards the sea each year. That means that 123 million Americans are in a highly vulnerable state when sea-levels inevitably rise. In many countries around the world, the situation is similar, as the coast is associated with fertile soil and higher standards of living. The recent increase in natural disasters has already begun to display the severity of climate change, with deadly examples such as the wildfires of Australia and California, Hurricane Harvey, and Hurricane Maria. Natural disasters rates are predicted to increase annually if carbon emissions increase at current rates. By supporting the EICDA, the House of Representatives ensures to American citizens that their safety is a prudent aspect of the decision-making process.

The "For the Many Not Just Me" Campaign insists that members of Congress vote in favor of Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. By choosing this course of action, the United States will play a substantial role in the global green energy market and experience significant economic growth across many sectors. It would be ill-advised to vote against the bill as a Florida congressman because the EICDA has the potential to provide residents with hope in a situation that is currently bleak. It is the responsibility of Florida representatives to support policies that prevent future wetland degradation while also protecting the citizens and economy that they were elected to represent. On an international scale, the situation is just as critical, as climate change threatens stability and human dignity around the world. As one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world, it is the United States' responsibility to dampen its burden on the international community by radically altering our approach to climate change. If representatives continue to delay reasonable action now, the climate response needed is far more severe to public health, national security, and the global economy.

It may still be possible to prevent some of the worst climate change impacts while softening the blow of other unavoidable losses if the preventative action occurs now. The EICDA will be the first of many policies developed with a core strategic response to climate change, and it leads to the sustainable transformation of the United States.

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