Editorials play key role in 2021 push for price on carbon 


Editorials play key role in 2021 push for price on carbon 

Editorials play key role in 2021 push for price on carbon

By Steve Valk

As 2021 unfolded, Citizens’ Climate Lobby saw a window of opportunity had opened to enact a price on carbon, as legislation to rein in climate change became a top priority. 

Due in great part to CCL’s steadfast advocacy for a carbon fee and dividend over the years, carbon pricing started to get serious consideration in the mix of policies emerging in a package of climate solutions. CCL immediately started pulling political will levers — lobbying, media, outreach, and grasstops engagement — to bolster support for the policy.

With the media lever, CCL volunteers rose to the challenge, getting 689 op-eds (so far!) published along with 2,268 letters to the editor. One type of media action that produces a big impact is newspaper editorial endorsements. Throughout the year, CCL volunteers have asked papers to publish editorials that support the inclusion of carbon pricing in the reconciliation bill. Because these editorials represent the official view of the newspaper — and because politicians seek newspaper endorsements when they run for re-election — they carry considerable weight with decision-makers in Congress.

As Senate Democrats head into 2022 ready to negotiate the final details of the Build Back Better bill, a price on carbon is still on the table, and newspaper editorials keep the pressure on lawmakers to include this essential tool.

Here are some of the editorials we’ve seen around the country:

 

Editorials play key role in 2021 push for price on carbon 

For nearly a decade, CCL has engaged with The Washington Post about carbon fee and dividend, and the Post has written numerous editorials in support of a tax on carbon with revenue returned to households. Their most recent editorial on climate policy — “President Biden’s pen is not enough to fight climate change. Congress must act.” — includes another plea to price carbon:

“Democrats seek to pass a sweeping, nearly $2 trillion social spending and climate package. The version that the House approved last month contained some $500 billion for global warming initiatives, including a $320 billion tax credit program that would drive renewables deployment… In fact, Senate Democrats should aim to make the policy more, rather than less, ambitious. Instead of merely subsidizing clean energy, they should put a stiff and rising tax on carbon-intensive fuels, then reinvest the proceeds into energy research, efficiency initiatives and rebates to consumers.”

Editorials play key role in 2021 push for price on carbon 

CCL’s North Carolina Coordinator Bill Blancato has developed a great relationship with the Winston-Salem Journal. The paper has published numerous op-eds from Bill and expressed support for carbon fee and dividend in editorials several times. Last month, Bill reached out to the editor suggesting this would be a good time for Journal to weigh in on the climate provisions for the reconciliation bill. On Nov. 20, the paper published the editorial “Back in the climate game,” which argued for a carbon price:

“More must be done to halt and reverse the policies and practices that contribute to the greenhouse effect that’s raising our planet’s temperature and putting more climate-churning heat and moisture into the air. No matter what else we do, if we don’t eliminate the causes of climate change, deadly and chaotic events will increase and more people will die…Systemic changes are required for our survival. But those changes don’t have to be painful. Options include a well-regarded, bipartisan carbon-pricing proposal that could put money in Americans’ pockets while reducing carbon emissions.”

 

Editorials play key role in 2021 push for price on carbon 

At the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the editorial board is composed of people in the community, and CCL volunteer John Macatee is one of those board members. John made his pitch to the board, and on Oct. 28 the Press-Citizen published an editorial, “Carbon pricing needs to be in reconciliation bill to stop climate change.”It covered all the bases in making the case for price on carbon. Here’s a snippet:

“The reconciliation bill needs to reduce carbon emissions 50% by 2030, in line with the commitment President Joe Biden made earlier this year… The most effective way to reduce carbon emissions, confirmed by many studies, is a carbon tax assessed on fossil fuels at the source, like a wellhead or mine. This will make fossil fuels less competitive than cheaper green renewable energy alternatives, including wind and solar. A price on pollution will accelerate the shift to climate-friendly energy sources throughout the U.S. economy.”Editorials play key role in 2021 push for price on carbon 

In Grand Junction, Colorado, CCL volunteers have talked to editors at the paper over the last few years, and the paper has supported carbon fee and dividend in editorials. CCLer Aaron Hoffman suggested this would be an opportune time for another editorial supporting carbon pricing, and the newspaper agreed, publishing “Policy would help on climate” on Oct. 24: 

“Right now greenhouse gas emitters are getting a free ride, a subsidy on their pollution that will be paid by our children and grandchildren to mitigate the effects of climate change. Charging emitters a fee (small at the outset, becoming increasingly painful over years) corrects this market failure… While the chances of a Republican backing the Build Back Better bill are basically zero, [Sen.] Manchin may appreciate the history of bipartisanship around this policy proposal… ​​A carbon fee and dividend program has not been added into the Senate’s Build Back Better bill, but we believe it should be.”

Editorials play key role in 2021 push for price on carbon 

One of the strongest editorials is from The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California. Thanks to the engagement of CCL volunteers, the paper has been a strong supporter of carbon fee and dividend for the past six years. Their editorial published on Oct. 19, “Congress can still deliver on carbon emissions,” noted that the paper checked with local Congressman Mike Thompson to confirm that he supports the policy. Here’s an excerpt:

“Inaction is no longer an option. There is a strategy that promises to reduce emissions, promote new technologies and put money in people’s pockets to offset the cost. Believe it or not, there is bipartisan support and, just as climate denialism is fading away, so is opposition from the energy sector. The strategy is called carbon fee and dividend.” 

 

Editorials play key role in 2021 push for price on carbon 

Earlier this fall, CCL volunteers in Yakima, Washington, held a meeting with the Yakima Herald editorial board to make their pitch for an endorsement. High school student Conor Lincoln delivered a presentation about carbon fee and dividend, and on Oct. 10 the paper published “Carbon pricing offers a clear path forward.” From the editorial:

“The idea of carbon pricing is to make polluting more expensive while providing economic benefits to energy innovators and economic relief to most American households. Carbon fees collected from the biggest emitters would help pay for the development of energy alternatives and energy rebates for the majority of private citizens… If we have any chance of meeting President Joe Biden’s goals of cutting carbon emissions in half in the next decade and reducing them to net zero by 2050, we can’t keep putting this off.”

 

Editorials play key role in 2021 push for price on carbon 

The Houston CCL chapter has developed a great relationship with the Chronicle, and the paper has been a strong advocate for climate action, including putting a price on carbon. In the summer, the group met with the paper’s editorial board to discuss the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act and, more broadly, the importance of enacting a price on carbon. On July 10, the Chronicle published an editorial, “Biden should back a carbon tax as Europe goes big on climate action,” urging President Biden to throw his support behind a carbon tax: 

“The world is in a race against time to slow the warming of the planet before climate change does irrevocable damage to the nearly 8 billion people who call it home — and America is behind. An idea that has been floating around Congress for years, but with much greater urgency and bipartisan support lately, could help change that — if only President Biden would ignore many loud voices within his own party and embrace a carbon tax…Biden should seize the moment and adopt the carbon tax idea that Democrats have been fighting for on and off for decades.”

Editorials play key role in 2021 push for price on carbon 

The Madison, Wisconsin, CCL chapter has also done great work with its local paper, the Wisconsin State Journal. After making pitches and sending an editorial packet to the paper in the spring, volunteer Tom Sinclair got a phone call from the opinion page editor, who said it appeared to be time for the nation to turn its attention back to the climate crisis. He noted that local Congressman Mark Pacon had signed on as a cosponsor to the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. On June 3, the newspaper ran a lengthy editorial, “Get back to solving climate crisis,” that included a call to price carbon:

“Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is ambitious and strong. But he’ll need help from Congress to get more done, including greater investment in research and development, and a charge on carbon emissions to reflect its cost to society. One of the most promising ideas is a revenue-neutral carbon fee with rebate checks. The fee on carbon would start small and gradually increase to give utilities and businesses the time and freedom to adjust to cleaner energy options in ways that work best for them. All proceeds from the tax would be sent back to the American people in equal amounts. Proponents say most consumers would come out ahead thanks to these annual rebate checks.”

 

Editorials play key role in 2021 push for price on carbon 

For a number of years, CCL volunteers in the Tampa area have met with and engaged editors at the Tampa Bay Times. On April 5, as the Biden administration was ramping up efforts to address climate change, the Times published an editorial with a big suggestion for the president: “Hey President Biden, where’s the carbon tax?

“When President Joe Biden unveiled ambitious plans to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, address climate change and shore up safety net programs, an important proposal was missing from his agenda: a carbon tax. As a market-based means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that holds polluters responsible, the tax has support among economists, environmentalists — even the oil lobby… As the world’s largest contributor to global warming, the U.S. needs to use every tool at its disposal to meet the challenge of reducing emissions and protecting human health, private property and the food supply. A carbon tax can advance those goals with the backing of political adversaries. It just needs the president to get on board.”

The post Editorials play key role in 2021 push for price on carbon  appeared first on Citizens' Climate Lobby.

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What Is a Climatarian Diet? Science-Based Tactics for Eating Healthier and Eco-Friendlier

A healthier diet. It’s an often abandoned New Year’s resolution and something we don’t think about every day. However, how you eat and what you eat can have a real impact on your carbon footprint. That’s what the climatarian diet is all about, and it’s not a misnomer or a weird fad diet trending on TikTok.


Cornell University reports that 99.9% of peer-reviewed studies agree: Anthropogenic climate change is happening.

What we eat makes up about a quarter of world greenhouse gas emissions, according to Our World in Data. Unfortunately, much of that is down to animal agriculture, land use and animal-based food products, as we will discuss below.

The essential idea behind the climatarian diet is: mindfully consuming food is a beneficial alternative to help the environment and eat healthier overall.

Benefits of the Climatarian Diet, According to Health Experts

“A climatarian diet can promote health and also preserve the environment,” says Dr. Daniel Boyer, a medical doctor in pharmacology and internal medicine focused on research at Farr Institute. “It is aimed at limiting animal-based food products and taking [in] more plant-based foods in their natural forms. Plant-based foods greatly reduce carbon footprint compared to animal-based food products that increase the carbon footprint.”

Boyer explains that the climatarian diet tends to avoid processed food and can benefit your health in the long term. He says that highly processed food, including plant-based foods, lack the nutritional value of whole foods and contain high components of added sugars, sodium and fat.

He says that these types of foods don’t keep you full and lead to food cravings for what your body actually needs — real nutrition. Eating excess processed foods leads to excess intake of salts and calories that increases your risk for obesity. Obesity can raise your risk of developing heart disease by up to 28%, according to Harvard Health. You may also be at risk for other serious health conditions, such as diabetes.

While there’s not yet much research on the climatarian diet, the research on plant-based diets has identified significant health benefits associated with this diet, including reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

“The climatarian diet does align with known healthy eating practices,” says Kristin Gillespie, a registered dietician based in Virginia Beach, Virginia at Option Care Health. “It’s rich in fruits, vegetables and plant-based proteins, and it’s more restrictive of animal products, processed and packaged foods. It is also widely known that shopping local and in-season is more environmentally friendly and experts have identified a significant decrease in CO2 emissions resulting from this diet. Overall, I do think that this diet has merit beyond environmental impact as it encourages its followers to adhere to a healthy but overall nutritionally adequate diet.”

The Carbon Footprint of Food Production and Food Waste

Food is front and center in tackling the climate change crisis, according to Our World in Data. Its 2020 analysis explored the environmental impact of food production and agriculture, finding that food production cultivates a costly carbon footprint for the planet. Where do we stand when it comes to major global impact?

Land Use, Ocean Pollution and Biodiversity

Imagine Earth’s surface for a moment, 71% water and 29% land.

The land without ice and desert, all that’s habitable — half is currently used for agriculture. That’s out of the 71% (habitable land) of the 29% (total land).

Comparatively, a 2018 study published in Science found that humans occupy 50-70% of Earth’s land, significantly shrinking mammal mobility.

However, humans only make up 0.01% of life on Earth. Livestock comprises 94% of mammal biomass (obviously excluding humans) and outweighs wild mammals by almost 15:1. In 2019, the IUCN Red List contained about 28,000 species threatened with extinction: Agriculture and aquaculture were listed as a threat for 24,001 of these species.

Urban areas make up a small amount of the real estate we take up. However, Our World in Data reports that we are left with 37% of land for forests; 11% for grasslands and shrubbery; and 1% for freshwater coverage.

Agriculture causes 78% of ocean and freshwater pollution, and it also contributes 70% for freshwater withdrawals (usage), while households account for 11%.

Livestock takes up 77% of world farming land, producing 37% of the world’s protein and 18% of its calories. Beef (beef herd), lamb and mutton, cheese, and beef (dairy herd) make up the highest producers that take up the most land.

Food Systems and Transportation

Our World in Data notes that transportation comprises less than 1% of beef’s global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while the worst GHG offenders are beef, lamb and mutton.

Most food is transported by sea, which produces the highest carbon footprint of transportation methods, followed by road and rail, according to a 2018 study published in Science. Researchers calculated “food miles” by the distance traveled per method times the mass of the food moved. The study also found that food systems impact 26% of GHG emissions:

  • 32% from land use
  • 39% from agricultural production
  • 3.5% from food processing
  • 4.8% from transportation
  • 5.5 % from packaging
  • 4% from retail
  • 2.5% from consumer preparation
  • 8.6% from food waste

Food waste is often talked about but little solved. Personal food waste may be reduced through effective meal planning (start small) and composting. You can even set up composting for your apartment through local government services or use of a small electric composter.

The energy that goes into food production is the main culprit (whether electricity, heat or industrial processes) of greenhouse gas emissions, the study found. The decarbonization of agriculture isn’t a clear route, though we can upscale low-carbon energy through renewable resources such as solar energy.

In the past, electricity has been shown to be the highest energy commodity used in the U.S. food system. The challenges ahead need a menu of solutions to match them: food waste reduction, agricultural efficiency improvements, affordable and scalable carbon food alternatives, and changes to diet.

Is Eating Locally Better for the Environment?

Many people think that if you purchase food locally, you are benefiting the local economy and the environment. However, it’s more important to focus on what you eat, not whether it’s local.

Locally produced and purchased food does support your community’s economy, but it doesn’t necessarily lower your carbon footprint. Our World in Data found that farm-stage emissions and land use account for over 80% of the footprint for most food emissions.

Eating locally may benefit the environment if you are choosing plant-based foods over animal-based products from a farmer who takes steps to reduce their impact through use of renewable resources. However, you may prioritize benefiting the local economy and a family-run business through your food choices.

In such cases, personal choices can have a major impact on not only the environmental concerns surrounding food systems but an economic one as well.

Local Food Economics Impact Bigger Systems

At the center of economics is the law of supply and demand. The growth of local food for community and economic development is driven by demand from consumers across the country. Demand for local food can be seen in national reports, the amount of local food marketing channels, retailer reactions, and new local, statewide, and national policies.

What has the demand for local food been in the last 20 years? According to the USDA, the local food sector was valued at $4 billion in 2002, with local food sales forecast to be worth $20 billion by 2019. It simplifies matters to look at the supply side of demand to qualify just how impactful your everyday food choices are.

From 2006 to 2014 alone, farmers’ markets grew by 180%, demonstrating increased consumer interest, according to a 2015 USDA report made to Congress called Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems. Similar surges were seen in farm to school programs and other channels. The growth of CSAs, farmers’ markets, food hubs, farm to school programs, and the presence of local foods at restaurants and grocery stores are all supply-side indicators of consumer demand in the local food sector.

As consumer habits change to buying local food, these new shopping and spending patterns have driven traditional food retailers and distributors to change, too. Older companies such as Kroger and Sysco now offer products that are traceable to local sources and report on sustainability commitments. As consumers drive this change, it gets the attention of businesses determined to satisfy customer demand.

Your Food Decisions Are Being Measured

A 2016 Deloitte report Capitalizing on the Shifting Food Value Equation shows that:

  • Traditional consumer drivers of taste, price, and convenience remain the same.
  • However, these preferences are joined by consumer “evolving drivers” of experience, safety, health and wellness, and social impact (including local food and sustainability).
  • While 49% of consumers put themselves on the traditional side of things, 51% make purchase decisions based on evolving drivers.

Your personal choices influence the food system and bigger systems beyond it at a government level, from municipal to state and federal. Retailers are challenged to offer more direct-to-consumers products through local meal kit delivery services and online CSAs. Technology allows consumers to access local farms, markets and products and still retain what they value about traditional drivers, like convenience. These changes prime the market to shift food systems toward greater sustainability.

Your food choices are the proof in the pudding. Take farmers’ markets, for example, which are often granted permits to operate on city streets or in local parks. You also support your local government and businesses by shopping at the neighborhood farmers’ market as convenience leads to you shop for other items nearby, boosting the local economy. Choices like this encourage the expansion of local food programs, policies and funding at the government level.

Local Food Systems Driven Toward Growth During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic generated an opportunity for local food systems to thrive, and some experts suggested that this could encourage a shift toward sustainable food sourcing, particularly given the increased interest from major retailers.

FI Global Insights reports that the pandemic allowed local food systems to grow beyond their scope. Consumers couldn’t locate products grown or produced nationally, and local producers couldn’t access international markets to vet the best buyers. Researchers categorized this as a “large scale socio-economic experiment” to see how various systems in different local contexts reacted to the same challenges. They found that local food systems across thirteen countries successfully innovated and adapted. Communities also played a role in organizing deliveries and promoting local food systems.

In September 2021, the USDA also announced a $3 billion investment in animal health, agriculture, and sustainability. $500 million will go toward adopting water-smart management practices and supporting drought recovery. The USDA notes that the pandemic impacted many aspects of the food chain supply and existing food systems. However, it also allowed national entities to see what adaptations were possible and needed. New initiatives to finance climate-smart farming and assistance with marketing climate-smart agricultural commodities are in the works. The USDA is also supporting pilot projects to implement climate-smart conservation practices on working lands.

All of this goes to show that your food choices matter and do have impact.

Eating Like a Climatarian

Eliminating or reducing the consumption of animal products in your household is the most effective way to lower your carbon footprint, according to Harvard University. It’s for the same reason: the cost of production grossly outweighs the cost of transportation. It’s more eco-friendly to transport plant products or plant-based products.

Remember that beef, lamb and mutton were the most harmful food products for GHG, according to Our World in Data, followed by farmed prawns. In terms of water impact, food products were measured in liters per kilogram. Cheese was the highest followed by nuts, fish (farmed), prawns (farmed), beef (dairy herd), rice, ground nuts, lamb and mutton, pig meat and others. Tofu was one of the lowest, less than wheat or rye, along with fruits and root vegetables as the lowest. Wine also had little environmental impact.

Selecting foods with less environmental impact is one primary aspect of eating like a climatarian, but that doesn’t mean your diet is restrictive.

More plants in your diet is better than mostly meat or sustainably raised meat. Sustainably raised meat may be a more ethical choice than meat derived from factory-raised livestock. Processed vegetarian meat can still be bad for you if you’re mostly eating fried seitan chk’n tenders and fries.

If you need a fast meal, a meal kit that rescues produce and limits ingredients may be the solution. You may not drastically eliminate GHG in comparison to making a homemade meal, but you are more likely to reduce food waste. Having food delivered can increase the (perceived) demand for single-use plastic containers and increase plastic waste in the environment.

Consider your personal values along with your dietary needs as you look for ways to reduce your environmental impact through mindful food consumption. Talk with your doctor or a registered dietician about a moderate approach to the climatarian diet and making it right for you, whether that’s prioritizing plants over meat or eating a more seasonal and varied diet.

Tiffany Chaney is an environmental and wellness writer dedicated to advocacy, ethics, and transparency. Chaney holds a BA in creative writing from Salem College and completed an apprenticeship in western herbalism and Traditional Chinese Medicine at the Tree of Life Wellness Center and Piedmont Herb School in Winston-Salem, NC. She is also a published creative writer and artist, currently living in Virginia.