The Costs of Extreme Weather: Fire, Flood, and Drought: Who pays?

By Diane Hodiak of Bend, Oregon. Diane is an environmental advocate who supports pricing carbon: a solution that will help the economy and the environment.

Have you heard of the 97% of scientists who agree that carbon release into the air is causing climate change and extreme weather events? Wonder who the other 3% is?

It's the fossil fuel industry (oil, coal, gas). These corporate giants are paying scientists who use phony science to reach false conclusions. They fund legislators, trade groups, and other 'influentials' who also deny that we have a problem. Instead they create bills to support the fossil fuel industry, thereby downplaying the role of clean energy solutions. Many believe that this 'big bluff' deflects blame and responsibility. It also hides the true costs of carbon release.

So, why are these corporations so determined to bluff their way out of this? Because the damages from carbon release are huge, by any stretch of imagination. Consider increased insurance premiums due to property damages from fire and flood. What about the losses incurred by tourism, (which includes ski industries, restaurants, and lodging) due to lack of snow?

Drought and lack of water is now shortening the growing season. As a consequence, less product is going to market and Oregonians are paying higher prices in the store and in restaurants. Nursery and greenhouse products, considered by some to be Oregon's most valuable agricultural sector, is also affected But, these are really just the tip of the iceberg. (which,by the way, is melting) It's hard to find a sector that is not affected by carbon-caused climate change.

Fortunately, Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund are fighting back. They hope to hold fossil fuel companies liable for the damages occurring from misleading information and their interference in solutions being proposed by government. Targeting executives and board members, these nonprofits have written to 36 of the largest oil and gas companies, as well as concrete manufacturers. They are asking that these corporate game-changers should be personally liable for their role in the 'big bluff.'

Perhaps fossil fuel companies will eventually pay for these wrongs, like the tobacco and asbestos industries. But this may take years. Unfortunately, until we do something, our costs will only continue to rise. Many believe the time has come for comprehensive programs that reduce the carbon being released to our atmosphere.

One possible solution, putting a price on carbon, is being considered by the Oregon legislature. A recent study by Portland State University,'Carbon Tax and Shift', states that a carbon tax would significantly reduce harmful emissions. Coupled with tax cuts to businesses and individuals, a carbon tax would produce more jobs and a boost to Oregon's economy. That sounds a lot more promising than the accelerating drain to all of us, from the costs of climate change.

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