At the Tri-Valley Citizens Climate Lobby meeting on June 27, Dr. Shi Ling Hsu by video and Evan Branning in person discussed the economic and personal costs of climate change.

Dr. Hsu, the Associate Dean for Environmental Programs at Florida State University College of Law, believes that approaching members of Congress with respect and politeness concerning climate change and carbon taxes would work better than entering conversations with demands. Earlier this year, 45 top economists, including former White House economic advisors, formal chairs of the federal reserve, Nobel Laureates and Republicans and Democrats signed a letter stating, “Carbon tax offers the most cost effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed necessary to reduce climate change.” In addition, the letter recommended that money/dividends from the tax be returned to American households. This would help reverse the effects on the poorest who would be hurt most by the tax.

Continuing, Hsu said that the economic costs of climate change are many, including those produced by a higher frequency of weather events. However, to really understand the basic causes of climate change, people must visualize the actual personal “costs” to make the need for changes personal. For example, statistics prove that Individuals living near coal fired power plants suffer an increase in pulmonary problems and deaths.

Evan Branning, local Livermore resident presently running for the California Senate, believes that California could be the leader in tackling climate change, since “as goes California, so goes the nation.” He would like to see the clean green deal or something similar implemented at the state level. “It is a battle that can be won.”

Branning pointed out that housing and transportation are major contributors to the climate crisis. He believes that more people need to take mass transit and have housing closer to where they work. Branning mentioned his engagement in the Valley Link program that will ultimately link Stockton to the Tri-Valley by train. However, he states that on its own, it’s not a solution. The housing issue needs to be looked at; building needs to happen in job centers. That includes bringing housing and jobs together to the Tri-Valley. He is unhappy that cities on the Peninsula have “skirted their housing requirement and pushed more and more housing onto us.”

Branning remarked that presently, Alameda County air pollution and water pollution create problems. Some areas have water as bad as that found in Flint, Michigan. He noted episodes in the Bay Area recently where air pollution has been so bad that people could not go outside several days of the year. He mentioned that San Francisco has begun a program with their Air Quality Board looking for the actual sources of air pollution at the micro level to address their problems. They found that the areas most impacted were poor communities, and those where persons of color are concentrated. The Board suggested updating building standards so that they require greener projects. Those types of programs could be addressed at the state level by studying air and water pollution levels, and revising building codes.

Branning finished noting, “The longer we wait to start working on solutions, the further away the goal gets. Being passive is not going to get us there.” Replacing cap and trade with an actual carbon tax, and giving dividends to people creates an effective way to bring down carbon usage. Branning explained that even now, renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels without subsidies. If you make carbon cost more, people will use it less. They will want to switch to alternatives. He noted that this can be done through state legislation. “The total goal should be de-carbonization of the state.”