League of Women Voters of Evanston holds carbon pricing dialogue


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

An aerial view of Evanston. The transportation sector is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide.

MaryKate Anderson, Reporter

A Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteer discussed how carbon pricing, or making entities pay based on the amount of carbon they are responsible for emitting, can help combat climate change at a virtual event hosted by the League of Women Voters of Evanston on Wednesday. 

Mike Ryan, a scuba diver turned CCL volunteer, said he found his passion for climate action while reading about how rising temperatures have led to the increased acidity in oceans and the widespread death of coral reefs. 

“The bottom line is that the increase in temperature is definitely human-made,” Ryan said during his speech. “And it’s really more expensive to do nothing at this point than to invest in climate change solutions.”

CCL, a nonpartisan nonprofit, is dedicated to altering national policy to address climate change. As guest speaker of LWVE’s first Drinks & Dialogue event of the year, Ryan made the case for swift climate action, explaining the carbon pricing initiatives currently making their way through Congress. 

While the LWVE is a nonpartisan political organization that does not endorse political candidates, the league’s climate action coordinator Elizabeth Kinney said it does take stances on issues like climate change. 

“The League of Women Voters stands united with and in support of efforts to price carbon emissions — whether cap and trade, carbon tax or fee or another viable pricing mechanism,” Kinney said. “The League of Women Voters does not have a position on how the revenue generated is to be used.”

The talk was timely as the movement behind climate action grows, both locally and nationally. Evanston enacted the Climate Action and Resilience Plan in 2018, aiming to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. One of many initiatives currently being discussed on Capitol Hill, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act aims to shift U.S. climate policy to align with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

Ryan said the act offers a three-pronged approach to reducing carbon emissions by 50% before 2030 and to net-zero by 2050. The legislation would introduce a fee on fossil fuels at the point of sale, return all net revenue to U.S. households as dividends and place carbon border adjustments on certain carbon-intensive goods. 

Ryan said he is hopeful that carbon pricing, while a divisive issue in Congress at this time, can become a bipartisan initiative. 

Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions at the end of Ryan’s presentation. League of Women Voters of Evanston co-President Jennifer O’Neil wondered how limitations on carbon emissions might affect workers in the fossil fuel industry. 

“When I was last in Kentucky, those in the coal industry were very concerned about having jobs that were equivalent,” O’Neil said.

With every new technology, outdated ones must be left behind, Ryan said, from horses and buggies being replaced by automobiles to wired telephones becoming wireless. He said he is hopeful that the federal government can introduce investments in communities that are more hesitant to accept alternative energy.

Ultimately, Ryan said he appreciated the work of the League of Women Voters in getting citizens engaged on a local level. He encouraged attendees to email their senators and President Joe Biden and to initiate conversations about climate change with friends and family.

“If you look at all the changes in the history of the world, they all begin with words and movements that can eventually lead to change,” Ryan said. “Just talking about this to help drive a movement is very important.”


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @mkeileen

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