Speaking at the Center for American Progress Action Fund today, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said he believes a price on carbon pollution can provide a unique solution to both the country’s fiscal challenges and its looming climate crisis, uniting climate and deficit hawks. His presentation put the challenge to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the House Republican budget chief, who has claimed that Congress has a “moral obligation” to reduce the country’s debt. With former Republican congressman Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), Waxman explained how tackling climate pollution can address fiscal, energy, environmental, and economic challenges simultaneously:
A price on carbon can give you a substantial amount of money to help deal with our fiscal problems. A price on carbon can move us away from our reliance on fossil fuels which add to the greenhouse gas emissions in our climate, and by doing that we can become less dependent on oil. We would be able to be a challenger in the economic future of clean energy.
“Do people want to cut Medicare and Medicaid?” Waxman asked. A rising price on carbon pollution, Waxman said, could raise over $1 trillion over several decades.
Gilchrest rebuked Ryan for ignoring the climate crisis in his depiction of the “defining moment“:
Paul Ryan said this is a defining moment for future generations as far as a fiscal sense for reducing the deficit. This is a defining moment on the planet of seven billion people extracting resources faster than they can be replaced, becoming a geologic force by pumping more carbon dioxide in decades than nature is able to store in the earth over millions of years. The defining moment is realizing that the market, capitalism, our civilization is actually a subset of the earth’s ecosystem. We’re not independent of the living machine that gives us life on earth. We’re dependent on it.
“The U.S. is facing a range of unprecedented fiscal and environmental challenges,” said Waxman. “We’ve got a confluence of events happening all at once.”
Waxman and Gilchrest recently co-authored a Washington Post op-ed with Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Sherry Boehlert (R-MD) calling for climate-change policies to be considered for deficit reduction.