If we don’t do something quick to stop global warming, some of the biggest cities in America could go the way of Atlantis in just a matter of decades. Sam Carana over at Arctic News has taken the time to analyze the latest data from NASA, and what’s he’s projecting from that data is startling. Sam suggests that global sea levels may rise rapidly over the next few decades; so rapidly, in fact, that we could see more than 2.5 meters of seal level rise by 2040, which is just 26 years from now.
And because, as Sam Carana points out, sea levels now look like they’re going rise exponentially - on a curve - as opposed to on a straight line, they will continue to rise even faster after 2040. To put this in perspective, here’s a picture of what the New York City metropolitan area would like with just 1.8 meters (around 6 feet) of sea level rise. As you can see, large parts of lower Manhattan and New Jersey would be underwater.
Six feet of sea level rise would also be a disaster for New York’s neighbor to the north, Boston, submerging the entire central part of that city. Miami, Florida, meanwhile, would basically turn into a giant swamp with many of its most famous neighborhoods drenched in sea water.
Of course, if we don’t take action against global warming soon, the possibility that some of America’s most famous cities could turn into manmade coral reefs will be the least of our worries. There’s a very real debate going on right now in the scientific community about whether or not industrial civilization, or even humanity itself, can survive the next couple of centuries if global climate change keeps on its current pace.
Which makes it all the more frustrating and outrageous that many of our elected representatives either don’t care that our planet is in danger or are so in bed with the fossil fuel industry that they use their positions as senators or congressmen to spew ridiculous conspiracy theories about climate science. Just yesterday, for example, Republican Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe said in a speech that global warming was a “hoax” used by the White House to push through an environmentalist “agenda”.
Luckily for us (and the planet) not everyone thinks the way Senator Inhofe does. Today, Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, introduced a bill that would go a long way towards creating sensible climate policy. The basic outline of Van Hollen’s bill, the so-called Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2014, is pretty simple. It would place a total cap on all carbon emission that would grow to 80 percent of 2005 levels by 2050. At same time, it would require fossil fuel companies to buy permits for every single ton of carbon they sell on the U.S. market. 100 percent of the money made from selling these permits would then be redistributed to “We the People” in the form of a quarterly dividend.
Sounds pretty cool, right? But wait, it gets better! The real genius in this plan is that average Americans would get more money from the dividends program as the emissions cap increased. In other words, you and I would get richer as the planet got healthier!
As University of Massachusetts economist James K. Boyce wrote in a New York Times editorial about Van Hollen’s bill, "The number of permits initially would be capped at the level of our 2005 carbon dioxide emissions. This cap would gradually ratchet down to 80 percent below that level by 2050.... As the cap tightened, prices of fossil fuels would rise faster than quantity would fall, so total revenues would rise. The tighter the cap, the bigger the dividend. Voters not only would want to keep the policy in place for the duration of the clean energy transition, they would want to strengthen it."
In a sane world, Republicans would be all over Chris Van Hollen’s bill. After all, it’s basically a way to take money that would normally go straight to the federal government and give it back to everyday hardworking Americans. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a sane world. We live in a world dominated by a fossil fuel industry that owns half of Washington and pretty much the entire Republican Party. So, in all likelihood, Congressman Van Hollen’s plan won’t even make it out of committee.
But that doesn’t mean we should give up the fight. If anything, Van Hollen’s cap-and-dividend bill shows us how simple it is to make global warming policy work for both the planet and the people. At the same time, it also shows that cutting carbon is a net positive for the environment and the economy.
If the data is right - and all signs do point to it being right - global warming is happening a lot quicker than we originally thought. That’s why you should call your member of Congress today and tell him or her to support Chris Van Hollen’s Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2014. After all, the future of the environment - and maybe even the future of the human race - is at stake.