Financial planners are always exhorting Americans to save for a rainy day. Those of us who can try to save for retirement, for college, or for an unexpected calamity—a serious illness or the loss of a job. It’s become accepted practice that individuals and families should plan financially for the worst in order to remain prosperous economically through bad times as well as good.
This makes me wonder why no one seems to be advocating for saving for the inevitable environmental “rainy day”—the effects of global warming. Recent reports have detailed the potential downfall of our wine industry, the depletion of our water reserves and an increase in forest fires. Does anyone out there think that dealing with global warming is going to be cheap? Instead of burying our heads in the sand and paying the bills later, I think it’s time we put some money into lessening global warming’s effects and protecting our economy.
The most logical way to get this fund started would be to tax the consumption of the things that cause the problem in the first place. Gasoline, electricity (the non-renewable kind), natural gas, home heating oil—all these things are causing our glaciers to melt and our climate to change. With even just a 1 or 2 percent “carbon tax” on the causes of global warming, we might be able to put together a fund that would help us weather (no pun intended) the coming changes in our climate and our economy.
This global warming fund would do a few important things: first, it would provide an incentive for the more efficient use of fossil fuel, especially among the largest consumers of energy. Second, we should be able to provide financial assistance to Oregon companies that are hurt by global warming, such as winemakers and grape growers or pear and apple orchardists. Third, it could provide us with some capital to incent clean-tech, renewable energy and other sustainable industries. Fourth, investing in these “green” industries could provide us with enough "green" economic growth to help our economy stay healthy and perhaps lessen our reliance on fossil fuels.
I’m not an economist, so I don’t have the wherewithal to know exactly how much money global warming is going to cost us. I’m not sure anyone can predict it accurately, anyway. But most people agree the cost is going to be big--and get bigger the longer we wait to address it. As a regular citizen who does her best to plan for her family’s future, I think it's time Oregon--and Oregonians--plan for our collective future.
Some may argue that Oregon is too small to enact a carbon tax and create a global warming fund by itself. The states to the north and south of us have demonstrated that they too are worried about global warming and they could be just the right partners to participate in a fund. California alone—the world’s sixth largest economy—is already trading carbon credits in the open market. If California and Washington were to join us in creating a West Coast global warming fund, industry and business would have to listen, and would have to keep investing in our local economies.
Of course many people won’t like this idea. I don’t like saving for retirement, either, but it’s necessary if I am going to enjoy a good life. With the effects of global warming already upon us, is saving to preserve our statewide quality of life any different?