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Dr. Barbara Warren’s Op-Ed in the Arizona Daily Star : Carbon-tax bill before Congress comes with unacceptable trade-off

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.

By Barbara Warren

SPECIAL TO THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR

From low to high impacts, humans are causing climate changes that affect our world.

Low impacts include simple personal discomfort with more varying weather conditions. Medium impacts include more frequent adverse temperature records and bad storms. High impacts include extreme temperatures, droughts and flooding.

Add in the power failures that can result from extreme weather and you seriously jeopardize people’s health and even lives. In addition, climate change and high temperatures exacerbate wildfires; create species and habitat loss; can escalate diseases; and, as we are seeing now with the coronavirus crisis, can potentially cause societal collapse.

Over 60% of global warming is caused by the energy sector of our economy. Hence, urgent global-warming solutions need to focus on our energy sector.

Increasing energy efficiency offers the largest impact. Installing more renewable energy capacity and eliminating fossil-fuel use can go a long way toward solving global warming. Improving our energy policies at all levels of government needs to happen quickly.

One such national policy that has a fairly high long-term potential is the establishment of a carbon tax, or a fee, on carbon pollution. For about 10 years now, carbon-tax bills have been winding their way slowly through Congress. The bill that has been touted recently in three opinion pieces in the Arizona Daily Star is the U.S. House or Representative’s H.R. 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019.

But something went haywire when this bill was written and introduced. This carbon tax option was corrupted by a proposed trade-off of one of our bedrock environmental protections, the Clean Air Act. Hence, many are opposing this carbon tax gone awry instead of promoting it as a high-potential option.

This is primarily because H.R. 763 would put Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards on hold for at least 10 years, discarding a critical tool to fight climate change. We must protect the EPA’s ability to fully regulate air pollution, including excessive carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases, under the Clean Air Act.

Just as importantly, H.R. 763 would set a bad precedent by trading away an environmental law that protects public health.

Coal and gas plants and gasoline-powered automobile emissions are notorious for causing life-threatening health problems. They cause asthma, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, birth defects and much more. And they cause them most often in low-income and vulnerable multiethnic communities where these pollution sources are often located.

We cannot afford to risk a cascade of health and environmental problems from tradeoffs of our environmental laws.

Another problem with H.R. 763 is that it promotes’carbon capture and sequestration’ of gases from coal and gas emission stacks. This technology encourages more dangerous mining of coal and natural gas. It is too environmentally damaging and expensive and could set back other cleaner and safer solutions to global warming.

The courts have ruled that the EPA has the authority to regulate CO2, and some of the ways it could reduce CO2 emissions are: encouraging multistate carbon tax arrangements; limiting emissions from coal and gas plants; and establishing and managing enforcement programs.

A well-planned carbon tax is a good thing. One that disables our environmental laws is not acceptable.

Please ask your representative to oppose this bill. In Southern Arizona, these are U.S. Reps. Raúl Grijalva, Tom O’Halleran and Ann Kirkpatrick. You can contact them by going to:http://www. house.gov/representatives/ find-your-representative

Barbara Warren is a retired physician and executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Arizona Chapter.