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When Do Climate Change Precautions Get Distorted into Wealth Redistribution?

Steve Kerekes's picture
Consultant Strategic Communications

Seasoned strategist with expertise in media relations, crisis communications and content and message development. Experience includes supervisory positions at the nuclear energy industry's policy...

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  • Nov 30, 2017 9:29 pm GMT
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So here's a question: When does action to mitigate the potential impacts of climate change cross the line from being a prudent precaution to brazen redistribution of wealth?

In the eyes of some, the answer is simple: From the get-go. The threat of climate change is overhyped; the United Nations bureaucrats organizing international conferences are riding a gravy train; and the leaders of  (pick your countries) are doing their utmost to squeeze untold billions of dollars out of the United States.

Conversely, in the eyes of others, climate change has a near-religious fervor. We can never do enough fast enough to save the planet from a thermal-induced apocalypse.

For those whose belief system falls somewhere between these two extremes, the question posed above may be worth pondering. I ask after reading a commentary in the Nov. 26 Washington Post headlined, "A climate policy that grows the economy." The co-authors of the commentary, small businessmen in the nation's capital, advocate enactment of the Climate and Community Reinvestment Act by the D.C. Council "as soon as possible." As the writers explain it, the measure would "require fossil-fuel companies doing business in the District to pay a fee for every ton of carbon dioxide they put into the atmosphere. The policy would then rebate the overwhelming share of the collected revenue -- hundreds of millions of dollars -- to D.C. households and small businesses such as ours."

Early in the article, the writers express their empathy and concern for the people and communities affected by this year's hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas. "(W)e wonder: How can D.C. businesses and residents do our part to address our climate crisis?" Their answer, at least in part: Pass the Climate and Community Reinvestment Act. Now.

I have no doubt in the world that the compassion and concern expressed for those whose lives have been devastated, if not lost, is heartfelt. I share it and can't imagine how anyone could feel otherwise.

At the same time, I have to wonder why, then, the revenue from the desired legislation would not go directly to communities already affected and/or most threatened by hurricanes and climate change? The authors cite an economic study that finds the "fee-and-rebate" policy would "rais(e) the incomes of most Washington residents, especially the poor and middle class ... (L)ow-income residents would receive $4 in rebate payments for every $1 they pay in energy 'taxes.' "

Hence my question: If the revenues generated are going to "most Washington residents," even those in the middle class, would the District be taking a prudent precaution, or would it simply be redistributing wealth?

What's your opinion?

 

 

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