How Would Gandhi Approach the Climate Crisis?

By Maria Rotunda, Santa Fe Citizens’ Climate Lobby

There is a story that Mark Reynolds, Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s Executive Director, tells to all new Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) groups that might offer some insight. This story encompasses the essence of CCL’s philosophy and core values.

The story takes place in the early 1900s when Gandhi was living in South Africa and battling apartheid. He visited General Smuts, the leader of the Transvaal Government and Gandhi’s adversary. After a long discussion, Smuts said to Gandhi, “Is there anything more you want to say?” To this Gandhi replied, “Yes – I am going to win.” “How will you do that?” Smuts inquired. “With your help,” Gandhi told him. And years later, that is exactly what happened.

At its core, CCL is all about coalition building and reaching across the aisle, asking individuals to embrace their humanity, evolve and work together. Creating the political will for a livable world isn’t something we can do alone.

CCL’s proposal is based on what climate science and economics tell us is the simple, most efficient first step in reducing greenhouse gas emissions: place a gradually, predictably increasing fee on carbon.

A steadily-rising fee – starting at $15 per ton of carbon-dioxide – is placed on fossil fuels at the point of import or production, increasing by $10 per ton of CO2 each year. Revenue from the fee is divided up equally and returned to all households. Border adjustment tariffs are placed on imports from nations that do not have an equivalent carbon-pricing mechanism in order to maintain a level playing field for American businesses.

Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI), a firm that corporations, governments and academic institutions turn to for economic forecasting, conducted a study on the Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal.

Here’s what REMI found: After 10 years, CO2 emissions would be cut 33 percent and 2.1 million jobs would be added to the economy, primarily because of the economic stimulus of recycling tremendous amounts of revenue into the pockets of people who are likely to spend the money.

That’s right. We can cut carbon emissions while ADDING millions of jobs to our economy.

Politicians don’t create political will – they respond to it. We believe citizens who are well-trained, organized by Congressional district, and with a good system of support can more than influence the political process.

With respect, we build long-term relationships with every member of the House and Senate, regardless of political party, to lobby in support of a Carbon Fee and Dividend. We know that we will not see this policy implemented without the support of a majority. We write letters to the editor and op-eds, and meet with editorial boards to gain their editorial endorsement.

If you are looking to do actual work with an organization that is punching far above its weight, there are a number of ways to become involved. We meet on the first Saturday of every month in Las Cruces, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe. Find contact info for your local group here: http://citizensclimatelobby.org/about-ccl/#Chapters. If you live outside of these areas, you can join our weekly introductory call, which happens every Wednesday. Calls begin at 6pm Mountain time and last about 1 hour (see information on CCL’s website).

Bottom line: we can adopt policies that will mitigate the climate crisis if we are willing to work, willing to work together, and willing to stay focused on a good goal. We have a lot of work to do. If you’d rather work than just click; if you’d rather work than just opine on Facebook; if you’d rather work than do anything else, we would love your help. We can get this done, with your help.

Maria Rotunda and John McAndrew are co-leaders of the Santa Fe CCL Chapter. For more information, contact them at santafe@citizensclimatelobby.org.