Letter to the Editor: Think globally, act nationally. Here’s how.

In his Earth Day piece, Alex Schwartz remarks that, “Environmentalism … requires political action.” He provides data to support the idea that no amount of individual environmental activism will solve the immediate and dire problem of climate change. He is correct.

The vast majority of energy and other natural resources are consumed by industries and agriculture that, as individuals, we cannot control. The only effective way to combat climate change will come through both national legislation and international cooperation. With the present administration in power, one might despair of making any legal changes that would regulate these industries to reduce carbon emissions. Moreover, the attack on the environment is so extensive that it is often hard to know where to start.

Of course we need to vote for legislators who are as committed as we are to curbing carbon emissions. Many of us, however, live in blue states where our elected officials already accept the reality of climate change and are awaiting a chance to do something about it. So how can we make a difference? There is a way for each of us to put our voices together to effect meaningful change regardless of our election district.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a non-partisan environmental group with chapters across the country (including Evanston) and a single focus: to get Congress to pass Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation. Economists and climate scientists agree that putting a price on carbon is the most effective way to curb carbon emissions and encourage the development of renewable energy. A fee would be put on carbon at the source (oil wells, coal mines, etc.) and the revenue collected would be redistributed equally to each taxpaying household in order to offset the inevitable increase in fossil fuel costs levied by the energy companies. A border carbon adjustment would prevent foreign companies from undercutting the price of American energy. With costs of fossil fuels rising, there would be a market-driven incentive to expand the use of renewable energy, which would become even cheaper as the demand grew and the technology improved.

Working with politicians on both sides of the aisle to promote legislation is just one way to get involved. Students can contact the congresspeople from their home districts and implore them to join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. The important thing is to get involved because, as Schwartz says, “environmentalism requires political action.”

William A. Muller, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Pathology
Feinberg School of Medicine
Northwestern University
[email protected]