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As Americans observe Earth Day (April 22), let’s take a moment to reflect on the power of the grassroots movement behind that first celebration in 1970, which led to dramatic changes that improved the quality of our lives through cleaner air and water.

Shocked by the massive oil spill that fouled the beaches of Santa Barbara, California, in 1969, Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson organized the first Earth Day the following spring. The response was overwhelming: Some 20 million Americans turned out to show their support for cleaning up the environment.  

Today, a similar movement is building for Congress to enact measures to preserve a livable climate for future generations. Across the country, volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby have conducted more than 1,000 outreach events in their local communities, aiming for a goal of 2,000 outreach events this spring. Some of those have happened right in central New York. Not only that, but they’ve held more than 250 meetings with their members of Congress since January 2019, asking them to support a bipartisan climate solution known as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763).

Thousands of economists across the political spectrum have said the most effective step we can take to bring down the emissions causing climate change is to put a robust price on carbon. If revenue is returned to households, they say, our economy will actually benefit. The Energy Innovation Act does just that. It is:

● Effective: It will reduce U.S. emissions at least 40 percent in the first 12 years and targets 90 percent reductions by 2050.

● Good for people: It will improve health and save lives by reducing pollution that Americans breathe. Additionally, the carbon dividend puts money directly into people’s pockets every month to spend as they see fit.

● Good for the economy: It will create 2.1 million new jobs, thanks to economic growth in local communities.

● Bipartisan: Republicans and Democrats are both on board as cosponsors. Any bill that hopes to gain passage in Congress must have bipartisan support. 

● Revenue neutral: The fees collected on carbon emissions will be allocated to all Americans. The government keeps none of the money, so the size of the government will not grow.

This legislation is garnering support from institutions and groups that have the ear of elected officials.

From the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

“This bipartisan bill is a hopeful sign that more and more, climate change is beginning to be seen as a crucial moral issue; one that concerns all people... At a time when the dangerous effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, the need for legislative solutions like this is more urgent than ever.”

From Trout Unlimited:

“Just as we learned in the 1990s that we had to move from the stream to the watershed scale to recover trout and salmon, we must reduce carbon emissions to slow climate change. For this reason, Trout Unlimited is supporting passage of common sense legislation such as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. The time for band-aids is past.”

Many members of Congress realize the “time for band-aids is past,” and as of this writing 30 of them have taken action by signing onto the Energy Innovation Act.

We’re seeing the impacts of climate change in Upstate New York with a general 71% increase in extreme precipitation events that has led to more frequent inland flooding such as that occurring in the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier in 2011 and 2018.  As the Citizen asked in December 2018, we hope that Rep. Katko will cosponsor H.R. 763. We also hope that Senators Schumer and Gillibrand will support similar legislation in the Senate.

Following the outpouring of support for the first Earth Day, Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together to enact policies that protected the environment and made our lives better. Likewise, Democrats and Republicans must now come together to enact effective policies to prevent our climate from unraveling beyond the point of no return. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act offers the opportunity for that much needed bipartisan collaboration.

Mark Reynolds is executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Kyle Thomas.is the group leader for the Syracuse Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

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Thomas is the group leader of the Syracuse chapter of Citizens' Climate Lobby

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