Whether or not the climate has undergone a drastic change is no longer up for debate, but what humans should do about it still is. In Corvallis, a local chapter of the group Citizen’s Climate Lobby is taking a policy-driven approach to help mitigate the climate change issue. With the motto, “Political Will for a Livable World,” CCL is advocating for a carbon fee and dividend program to be implemented throughout the U.S. and other countries.
Dr. Carla Wise was an environmental writer and biologist before starting the Corvallis chapter of the CCL.
“I was writing about climate and that’s how I learned about CCL sometime during 2006-2008. The more I learned, the more I felt called to do work besides just writing,” she explains.
After writing a book about climate solutions, she says that she struggled to find an approach that felt constructive. “The more you learn about climate, the more hopeless I felt,” she expressed, explaining her decision to the Corvallis chapter in 2013.
“I met with local people, we had some organizational meetings, we had CCL’s executive director come here, and we had a group-start workshop in the South Co-Op,” Wise stated.
Wise is now the primary liaison for State Representive Peter DeFazio’s office, as well as working with other CCL groups around Oregon and the U.S. to communicate with state representatives about climate action. Her co-leader, Jim Holm, also plays an equal role in the monthly operations of the group, and she noted that he was as much to thank for the group’s success as herself and all the other members.
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Wise was careful to note that any work towards reducing humans’ impact on climate is valuable. However she wanted to be a part of something bigger than local solar panel and recycling programs or even protest events.
“I didn’t feel like either of those approaches worked or fit well for me, which is why I got serious about CCL,” she said. “I also liked that it was focused on the national level, because that seemed more appropriate for a problem on a global scale.”
Founded in 2007 and with chapters all over the world, CCL encourages citizen engagement with the goal of driving political policy through the democratic process rather than personal or corporate interest. They also advocate for a specific climate solution, the carbon fee and dividend.
Carbon fee and dividend is not cap and trade; it is a revenue-neutral tax on carbon. The tax is then returned directly to households. Carbon prices will go up, but consumers will receive money back each year to either use toward higher carbon-based products, or to spend on other, more sustainable options. With this option, the market would encourage more growth in the renewable energy sector, and it would make it more cost-effective for businesses to choose sustainable practices.
CCL hired Regional Economic Modeling Inc. to create a study showing how carbon fee and dividend would unfold. They found that it would “reduce greenhouse gas emissions 52 percent below 1990 levels within 20 years while growing the economy and saving lives,” referring to the number of health-related deaths from pollution and climate refugees.
When describing why she got involved in CCL, Wise said, “If you spend any serious amount of time studying climate change, as I have, you realized that we are at a time in the country and in human history that is pretty unique. There’s no time, and there’s not a lot of likelihood that we will contain climate change to the point that our kids will have a stable climate to live in.”
“It’s really easy to become angry or cynical or feel despair, hopelessness, or be overwhelmed. It’s so easy to give up, or be so angry that you stop,” she continued, “but I personally don’t see that getting caught up in those decisions is a good choice. It doesn’t allow you to do constructive things that create a beneficial outcome.”
Beyond carbon fee and dividend, Wise mentioned that the overall attitude that CCL takes fit for her. They aren’t partisan, they have multiple faith-based groups involved as well as secular individuals, and they are simply focused on climate.
“I’m old enough to know that this didn’t have to be a partisan battle,” she stated. “When I was in graduate school and the first Bush was in office, he spoke very openly about changing climate change. It shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and it wasn’t then. The partisan bitterness is completely muddling the issue.”
Wise noted that the Corvallis chapter is currently working with multiple other organizations, regularly giving presentations and trying to get their message out to the public. They have been to the Indivisible meetings, have talked with the local Audubon chapter, and even done classroom presentations.
“As we fight, we are losing our life support systems. Looking for a way to go beyond partisan blaming, and moving towards possible solutions was the best option for me,” added Wise.
Currently they are working on getting endorsements from local businesses, stating that they want climate action or carbon fee and dividend. The group has also started talking to farmers about how agriculture is impacted by climate and how they can advocate for their interests. If you too would like to get involved, the Corvallis CCL meets once per month on the second Thursday from 5:00 to 6:15 p.m. at the North Co-Op meeting room.
Meetings are focused on learning something about climate change or climate action and providing an open space to share ideas for moving forward. The group also meets for lunch to casually chat on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. at New Morning Bakery.
By Kristen Edge