Valk: Yale poll shows nationwide support for revenue-neutral carbon tax (column) | VailDaily.com

Valk: Yale poll shows nationwide support for revenue-neutral carbon tax (column)

Steve Valk
Valley Voices

With the latest polling from Yale showing that 68 percent of U.S. adults support a revenue-neutral carbon tax, Congress has historic, nationwide support to act on climate.

Early last month, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication updated its Climate Opinion Maps with data that included responses to 14 new questions. One of those questions asked respondents if they "support taxing fossil-fuel companies while equally reducing other taxes." Nationwide, 68 percent said they would support this type of revenue-neutral carbon tax. Only 29 percent were opposed.

"The Yale poll shows we're approaching the tipping point for the political will to enact a market-based solution to climate change like carbon fee and dividend," said Mark Reynolds, Citizens' Climate Lobby executive director. "The American public sees that we don't have to choose between protecting the economy and preserving a livable climate. We can do both by pricing carbon and returning the revenue to households."

A study released in 2014 from Regional Economic Models Inc. examined a fee on the carbon dioxide content of fuels that started at $10 per ton of CO2 and was then raised $10 per ton annually. Revenue from the fee would be returned equally to all households as a monthly payment. The Regional Economic Models study found that after 20 years, carbon emissions would decline to 50 percent below 1990 levels. Over that same time, the policy would add 2.8 million jobs to the economy.

The Yale poll exposes a gap between the views of constituents and their representatives in Congress. In July, the U.S. House passed a resolution, mostly along party lines (229-180), expressing the sense "that a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses."

"The assumptions in that resolution were flat-out wrong, and the Yale poll shows that a large majority of Americans aren't buying that false narrative," Reynolds said. "Ten Republican members of Congress didn't buy it either when they cast 'no' votes or abstained from voting on a recent anti-carbon tax resolution."

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Although the views of federal lawmakers on climate change continue to lag behind their constituents, progress is being made. There are now 86 members in the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the House, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

"We now have 43 Republicans in the House who concur that human-caused climate change is happening and that Congress needs to be working on solutions," Reynolds said. "Three years ago, you could count the number of Republicans in that camp on one hand."

An email from Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, points out that support for revenue-neutral carbon pricing is strong throughout all parts of the country: "Majorities in all 50 states and all 435 Congressional Districts support requiring fossil-fuel companies to pay a carbon tax and using the money to reduce other taxes (such as income tax) by an equal amount."

Steve Valk is communications director for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Valk joined the Citizens' Climate Lobby staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.