Extreme weather and climate change add to inflation — clean energy is the answer
Published 10:47 am Friday, December 2, 2022
BY NORMA MORRISON
With inflation continuing as winter approaches, many Carter Countians are concerned about high household bills.
In recent years we’ve seen how pandemic-disrupted supply and demand, and the impact of international events such as the war in Ukraine, can influence the bills that arrive in our mailboxes and the prices we see at the pump and grocery store.
Additionally, consumers are feeling the pain from a more permanent cost — that of increasing climate catastrophes caused by burning fossil fuels.
In a vicious circle, disruptions from extreme weather, made worse by unchecked climate change, are adding to the reliability issues we see today and are an additional inflationary force. Damage from disasters like Hurricane Ian is driving up insurance premiums for homeowners. Meanwhile, climate change is expected to increase annual flooding costs in the U.S. by 26%, a study found earlier this year.
Nobody likes higher prices. If we’re really serious about keeping energy costs affordable, we should transition to clean energy as quickly as possible.
Volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby in Elizabethton and Roan Mountain are urging Senators Blackburn and Hagerty to pave the way for Tennesseans to receive monthly checks to offset higher household costs. This could be achieved via a fee on pollution with cashback payments to households, which in turn would speed up the transition to cheaper, cleaner, reliable domestic energy.
“There is surprisingly bipartisan support for this approach in the U.S. The Climate Leadership Council bills itself as an international policy institute founded in collaboration with a Who’s Who of business, opinion and environmental leaders to promote a carbon dividends framework as the most cost-effective, equitable, and politically-viable climate solution,” says Katherine Hayhoe, an Evangelical Christian and Climate Scientist.
Congress recently took major steps to lower household energy costs and spur clean energy development through the Inflation Reduction Act. Incentives in the IRA for electric vehicles, electric appliances, wind and solar power generation and other clean technologies are expected to bring U.S. greenhouse gas emissions down to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. More will be needed to reach the U.S. goal of 50% reductions by 2030. An economy-wide price on carbon, with revenue distributed to households, could help reach that goal while protecting Americans from rising energy costs.
Members of the Northeast Tennessee chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby meet regularly with the office of Representative Harshbarger to urge her to enact a corporate polluter fee with the money returned to American households.
A carbon price with a dividend would not only aid cash-strapped Americans but would slow the climate impacts already being seen in our state. As corporations decrease carbon emissions in order to decrease their fees, Tennessee can expect to see fewer extreme weather events that last a shorter time. Many in our county will receive more dollars from these fees than the extra costs passed on to them for gas, food and energy.“ We applaud both Democrats and Republicans for wanting to go big on life-changing climate solutions and hope Senators Blackburn and Hagerty will get behind a price on pollution with a cashback to help ease the burden to households in Tennessee.”
A report from Stanford University makes a strong case that U.S. electricity blackouts — becoming more prevalent due to extreme weather from climate change and dated infrastructure — could be avoided by switching to solar, wind, and water energy sources.
The Northeast Tennessee chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby has advocated for an effective price on carbon for many years. The group has had 54 contacts including one lobby meeting with Members of Congress this year, almost 100 phone calls to Members of Congress, and has generated 20 local endorsements for carbon pricing legislation, including Friends of Roan Mountain, Lifewell Pharmacy, Los Gatos Coffee Bar, Mainstreet Café and Catering, and Atelier 133.
(Norma Morrison is a member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change. Learn more at citizensclimatelobby.org