Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do. Democratic state Sen. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle, chair of the Washington Senate's environment committee who would sponsor the carbon tax … The $17.1 billion fee-and-bond package it's part of also features a 6-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase. Subscribe today and get a full year of Mother Jones for just $12. Close. By Request: Office of Financial Management . If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands. “All human practices and disputes can now be expressed through the language of climate change, which has become a new medium through which human life is lived.”. Sen. Tim Sheldon said the proposal is the best alternative for Republicans. Without a course correction, climate activists may well find themselves right back where they started, raising the body count on failed climate initiatives while blithely marching forward. Dolšak tends to agree: She hypothesized that even cap-and-trade, which often amounts to the same thing as a carbon tax, might have passed in the state, given that it sidesteps the word tax and directly limits emissions. Washington state on Tuesday rejected a carbon tax ballot initiative that supporters hoped would be the first voter-approved tax on fossil fuel emissions to fight climate change. At 8:15 p.m., the buzz of conversation spiked, becoming a roar. In Washington, hydroelectric dams, not fossil fuels, have long provided the state’s energy. Setting a carbon border tax on imports is the preferred option among respondents to a key consultation on the EU carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM), the results of which are meant to inform the European Commission’s design and implementation of the measure. Wheat fields and forests burned and towns throughout the region were choked with wildfire smoke. Jay Inslee on Thursday unveiled a 2021-23 operating budget proposal that includes $57.6 billion in spending for state operations such as schools, prisons, and social services. Human-caused climate change is turning into a “medical emergency” that could result in death and disease for millions, according to British medical journal, The Lancet. Inslee tried several times, and voters rejected two ballot measures, before Washington took a year off from carbon pricing battles in 2019. Revenue impact. People are animals, yes, and political animals at that, forming loyal packs and scrapping over neighborhood HOAs, city councils, Congress and the courts. By signing up, you agree to our privacy policy and terms of use, and to receive messages from Mother Jones and our partners. Then a strange hush swept the room, rippling outward from the televisions. In Canada, for example, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced blowback for his carbon tax proposal. By 2010, the decline of the US coal market had become obvious, and the fossil fuel industry began to eye the West Coast for access to Asian markets. “It still didn’t seem concrete or tangible to people,” Stevenson said. It’s a challenge to our moral imagination—and a big one. So even if a majority of Americans believe in climate change, that statistic amounts to very little. Alberta’s anger against the carbon tax is misplaced. More: U.S. impacts of climate change are intensifying, federal report says, More: Carbon dioxide in our atmosphere may soar to levels not seen in 56 million years. Washington Gov. That physicality did connect up the dots for people.”. “That’s the Hindu in me!” Prakash quipped, meaning the tendency to think not just of this reincarnation, but the next and the one after that. What, then, should we take away from the death of 1631? Economists generally support a carbon tax over regulations or building standards, because it costs all emitters fairly, in proportion to their emissions. A second wave of results had come in, and the tide had turned. An engineer at Volvo isn’t likely to compare her efficiency costs to those of double-paned windows in a new high-rise. In practice, however, many key emitters are relatively unaffected by a carbon tax. I stumbled down a flight of stairs looking for somewhere to retreat to, but there was nothing around but bad weather. Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation. Reimagining it will require a radical overhaul of societal structures, a process she thinks will take longer than an election cycle or two. The time for a carbon tax will come, Harvey said. Ted S. Warren/Associated Press. Golden thinks the first step is to regain a sense that our collective actions can actually affect the course of climate change. “We’re animals, and we live in a physical world. “We’re just not on the same timeline as physics.” Climate change is not just an environmental problem or an economic problem, and it can’t be framed that way. Climate change turning into ‘medical emergency,’ experts say. Those climate hawks who believe that extreme weather events, like wildfires and hurricanes, will inspire climate inactivists are overly optimistic, Prakash said. Initiative 1631 proposed to do this by putting a fee ($15 per metric ton) on carbon emissions from the largest polluters, then slowly increasing that fee, with the revenue going toward programs that reduce greenhouse gases and pollution and their effects. Over the summer, a ragged line of wildfires scorched the Northwest, curling from British Columbia through eastern Washington and down to Oregon. Jay Inslee, seated center, poses for a photo with lawmakers and others after he signed the state operating budget, Tuesday, May 21, 2019… In addition to concerns about air pollution and the safety of coal trains and gas pipelines, the proposals threatened the region’s sense that it was a leader on climate change. In 2018, voters in Kalama, Washington, elected Mayor Mike Reuter, who promised to block construction of a plant for methanol, a fossil fuel with a heavy pollution fingerprint. Is any carbon tax doomed to fail? The warming climate will produce—in fact, it is already producing—challenges that altered consumption habits and more efficient buildings can’t pay for. In August, a mother orca lost her calf, then carried its body on her nose for 17 days, a painful reminder of species loss and habitat degradation. The failure of Washington’s carbon tax proved a dim coda to the state’s long fight to control rising temperatures and reverse their effects on its most vulnerable communities. Supporters of a Washington state ballot initiative that would charge a fee on carbon emissions from fossil fuels rally in October. Initiative 1631 differed in that it proposed to use revenue from carbon fees to invest in projects to reduce pollution. But the moral urgency, the sense that life after oil is a real possibility, the feeling that anything useful can be done — those aren’t. Despite the work of scientists and researchers, whose models are getting better at explaining the chaotic relationships between climate and weather, the truth is that the destructiveness of a particular storm is hard to link straight to a changing climate—what experts call “the attribution problem.” Smoky summer days in Idaho can seem far removed from a tax, or fee, that will somehow reduce carbon emissions, somehow slow climate change, and somehow decrease wildfires. Business and petroleum groups may take an interest, Hobbs added, in how the bill limits future fuel standards. The fight to block fossil fuel infrastructure drew widespread support in Washington and Oregon. Washington may already be learning its lesson. In Washington, fossil fuel companies and lobbyists spent more than $30 million to defeat Initiative 1631, versus $17 million from supporters. This was the state’s second attempt to tax carbon emissions, and in the months leading up to the vote, an unusually wide swath of Washington society had turned out in support. “We’re trying to break free and make a fundamental shift in our society.”, And the difficulties with that shift run deep in the human psyche. Washington Gov. In short, the difficulty of addressing climate stems from its very power: Its effects are inextricable from the way we have configured our society. “They were holed up in the mountains with their coal, and they were trying to figure out where to go,” Golden said. “Nives and I have not given up on conversation,” Prakash said. After all, in the months leading up to the vote, climate change made its mark on much of Washington life. For example, Stevenson, the canvasser, was first drawn to climate activism through her interest in reproductive health and justice: “There are areas where people’s children are not growing up healthy because they’re breathing in fumes or drinking fossil fuels in their water,” she said. But Initiative 1631 failed, and Washington must now confront a darker version of itself, in the kind of identity crisis that comes only in defeat. “It comes out as a family compromise.” What they arrived at was simple: The failure of 1631 was about more than a deep-pocketed oil and gas campaign machine; it spoke to climate action’s broader challenges. And in the state of Washington, the carbon tax initiatives have suffered two successive defeats in 2016 and 2018. “If you look at this package as a whole it deals with both environmental and infrastructure needs,” Hobbs said. Had every project been built, “it would certainly make us one of the top fossil fuel transport hubs anywhere in the world,” said Eric de Place, a programs director at the Sightline Institute, a nonprofit think tank focused on regional sustainability. In 2017, the state received just over 20 percent of its energy from coal or natural gas, and its only coal power plant is on track to close. January 23, 2019. In the fall, many of the state’s largest salmon and steelhead fisheries closed, from the Yakima to the Columbia River, thanks to warming rivers and oceans. Charging $15 per ton of carbon, the fee would raise about $7.9 billion over the next 10 years. The carbon fee and gas tax account for about $10 billion of the roughly $13.6 billion in fees in the package. Washington Initiative 732, a "tax swap" proposal to levy a tax on carbon emissions and simultaneously reduce the state's sales tax, had appeared on the ballot in the 2016 election, but failed to pass. All of these things are wrapped together, but the climate is changing, and so must our analysis of it. In the three northeast counties, the percentage of people voting no were: Ferry County = 74.5 percent; Stevens County = 79 percent; Pend Oreille County = 77.24 percent. Initiative 1631’s demise might have had something to do with moments like this, where the connection between taxing carbon and more immediate fears about one’s health or one’s job becomes obscured. Then the speeches ended, and people began to leave, making their way to the city’s gloomier bars or pedaling home in the dark. Now, under the new Clean Buildings Act, Washington will be the nation’s leading state in commercial building energy requirements. Bonds add an additional $3.5 billion, bringing the total to just under $17.1 billion. In the US, advocates are crafting an economic stimulus package—a Green New Deal. This story was originally published by High Country News. A 20-year-old woman with square glasses and a knack for getting people to talk, she spent weeks knocking on doors in the Spokane area, on the far eastern side of the state, along with her husband. It also sets the carbon fee at a fixed rate, without increases over time. President Barack Obama’s White House seemed committed, along with much of the world, to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through regulations and other incentives, with states like Washington, Oregon and California poised to help lead the way. Less than a month after the carbon tax failed, Gov. On our dependence on fossil fuels, “we’re fighting something that’s dying,” Golden told me. Seattle made a commitment in 2002 to eliminate the city’s carbon emissions from electricity, one of the first American cities to do so, and voters passed renewable energy standards in 2006. That reality has helped green Washington’s politics and identity, especially in the western part of the state. “2019 is a year we can make a lot of progress on this,” Nick Abraham, a spokesman for the Yes on 1631 campaign, told me. In the weeks after, as they ate dinner or got ready for work, they’d dissect the results: Is Washington turning conservative? Along the beach in Edmonds, Washington, a coal train passes behind Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash, professors at the Center for Environmental Politics at the University of Washington. A few campaigners sat hunched over computers in the back corner, but mostly, it seemed, people were there to socialize. And there, at least, they seem to have taken the hint: That package sidesteps a carbon tax entirely. “We have anecdotal evidence that money doesn’t lead to electoral success,” Prakash said. A carbon tax failed on the ballot in 2016. The initiative promised to pool funds for projects, including new bus lines, land conservation grants, and training to transition fossil fuel workers into other jobs. Washington's latest proposal also follows a federal report that showed the impacts of climate change are intensifying, including increased extreme weather, poor air quality and food shortages. If we have to name 1631’s killer, it might be what geographer Mike Hulme called the “climate of climate change.” Hulme, an expert in climate change theory at the University of Cambridge, argues that our concept of climate is only partly rooted in objective truths about the material world. Another ambitious effort to pass a carbon tax in Washington state has faltered as both Gov. W hen it comes to energy policy, Washington has one resource that appears infinitely renewable: carbon-tax proposals.. Al Gore proposed a carbon tax back in 1992. In those days, Golden was fighting the “greenhouse effect,” an early name for the warming effects of carbon dioxide, and he won support by pointing to both reduced energy costs and environmental benefits. Terminals, refineries and railways exist in the material realm, de Place said. This wasn’t the end, they swore; it was just the beginning. Whichever one I’d call, I’d find them together: They have been married for 19 years and often greeted me in unison in a well-worn routine. New tax hard to swallow; Washington Democrats pull fast one in Legislature’s last weekend By The News Tribune Editorial Board April 30, 2019 12:30 PM , “It is a moment of great peril but it is also a moment of great promise.” He unveiled a plan he hopes to put before the state Legislature this year, one that encompasses clean fuel standards, tighter building codes and a shift to 100 percent clean energy. She also talked to her father, back home in Vancouver. Listen on Apple Podcasts. The celebrations lasted a few minutes. “We’ve moved the conversation away from, ‘Should we take action?’ to, ‘What should action look like?’ ”, “I want to make sure people don’t take the vote count and say, ‘Pffft,’ and move on,” Schaefer, the head of Front and Centered and one of 1631’s designers, said. Supporters of a Washington state ballot initiative that would charge a fee on carbon emissions from fossil fuels rally in October. I made my way through the streets, my thoughts scattered, and before I could really think through all I’d just learned, a gust of wind caught me by surprise and nearly slammed me into a building. Instead, the question is over the cost required to take action: “How much is society willing to pay to reduce this problem versus another, equally important problem?”. Climate activists drew what they called a “thin, green line” at the coastal Northwestern states, adopting a term coined by de Place to describe their role as a barricade against a fossil fuel boom. If people were nervous, it didn’t show. The carbon fee would add 15 cents per gallon, an increase of 21 cents per gallon. This election cycle, Jordan Stevenson was a fellow at the advocacy group Our Climate, which supported Washington’s carbon tax. Although he believes people will embrace climate action eventually, in the short term, he conceded, “I think things are going to get worse before they get better.”, Prakash blamed environmentalists and their approach. The package announced Thursday would also raise fees on property development and commercial, electric and private vehicles, as well as taxes on rental cars, bicycles, and auto parts. All Rights Reserved. March 27, 2019. Golden’s mind was on what would come next, including setting aside the fight for a carbon tax, for now. On Jan. 10, 2019, the state Supreme Court denied the city of Seattle’s request for direct review of its effort to create an income tax. That, Prakash said, “was myopic.” (Mo McBroom, director of government relations for The Nature Conservancy’s Washington chapter, noted that 1631 differed from 732, as it “would have provided investments to make our state more resilient to climate change, including reducing risk of forest fire and addressing drought” and drew support from businesses, prominent philanthropists like Bill Gates, and health professionals.). Washington state lawmakers proposed a measure on Thursday to limit carbon pollution that would be the nation's first if passed. join us with a tax-deductible donation today. However, you must still pay the tax due on your original filing date. Available Documents. The bill will now be heard and voted on by a fiscal committee. Opponents to the ballot measure outspent supporters 2-to-1, spending a total of $30 million to defeat it. It’s just another thing to worry about, on a heaping plate of worry. Close. “The first lesson is: Don’t lead with your chin.” Harvey, an energy wonk with a cheery, blunt manner, said the state’s climate coalition should have pushed for more immediately achievable ends first, such as fuel efficiency standards modeled on California’s, or tighter building regulations. “The essence of strategy is making choices,” Harvey said. Its demise raised big questions about humanity’s ability to address climate change. The state put a limit on emissions in 2008. Some say the death of the carbon tax was easily foreseen. Inexpensive, too! Yet its failure had seemed improbable. Several local governments have committed to 100 percent renewable energy, he said, and the state has a slate of pending bills from creating a clean fuel program to building light rail, giving people more options to get around. No capital gains tax currently exists in Washington at the state or local level. Unsurprisingly, the carbon tax found wide support among the state’s tribal nations, some of whom face the obvious possibility of displacement due to rising seas, and in Seattle’s communities of color, where air pollution already causes higher-than-average rates of asthma. Dolšak thought it was doomed, while Prakash acknowledged ruefully, “I thought it would pass.”, Not that Dolšak enjoyed being right; 1631’s defeat left them both deflated, she said. Those who build new buildings are rarely the ones paying the energy bills, so a tax on emissions is more likely to hit the building’s occupants. Jay Inslee, a 2018 carbon fee bill also died in the Senate. At least 10 other states have introduced carbon fee or tax proposals, however, as emissions of the greenhouse gas linked to global warming hit an all-time high last year, scientists found. We finished our drinks and parted ways. Despite Democratic control of both legislative chambers and support from Democratic Gov. This story was funded with reader donations to the High Country News Enterprise Journalism Fund. “A lot of environmentalists are approaching conservation and pollution reduction from a normative perspective: We have to reduce pollution and protect the environment,” Dolšak told me. The Lummi Nation successfully killed a proposal for an export terminal for Montana coal outside Bellingham. Just a few weeks after the election, the National Climate Assessment confirmed that all that was likely just an ominous portent of things to come: Climate change threatens the region’s infrastructure with landslides, rising seas and aberrant weather, while its most vulnerable communities face deteriorating air and water quality. “People don’t get worried about problems that aren’t happening today or tomorrow,” Dolšak said. “When my kid plays soccer, when he loses a game, I don’t say, ‘Don’t play soccer anymore.’ ”, But if climate hawks want to make progress, they’ll need to grapple with the cause of death for Initiative 1631. By 9 p.m., Initiative 1631 was dead. Terms of Service apply. I checked the televisions: A few counties were leaning toward approving the measure. The West Coast offered the quickest way from coal country to China, and so began a wave of proposals for trains to haul the coal and for coastal terminals from Oakland, California, to Bellingham, Washington, to export it. Many groups, including the Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy, did not back an earlier carbon tax that was designed to appeal to more conservative voters. What Went Wrong? In this way, climate change can boggle the imagination. Rather, she’ll look to her competitor at Peugeot, who is under the same constraints. In Washington, even as winter faltered and delivered a meager snowpack, concerns over climate change had been quickly replaced by more immediate worries: a federal shutdown and a volatile stock exchange. He was in a reflective mood: Climate Solutions was in the midst of moving offices, and they’d unearthed years of news clippings on the long fight for climate action in the state, records of campaigns and failures going back more than a decade. “If a carbon tax cannot pass in good economic times, in a pro-environment state like Washington, then action on climate is far more difficult than it used to seem.” Prakash’s longer view gave him a more hopeful perspective, she said, forecasting what might happen thousands of years from now. Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox. Jay Inslee, a Democrat who backed it and has suggested that he might run for president on a climate change platform, held a press conference to announce a new green legislative deal. ... (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) ... Jan. 24, 2019 at 12:33 a.m. UTC. “When we’re thinking of solutions, I’m thinking in two to four years,” she said. The rural communities of Hoquiam and Aberdeen unanimously banned new crude oil storage facilities in their towns. On the other hand, voters—most of whom aren’t economists—tend to prefer energy standards because they put the costs on those most directly responsible for carbon-emitting systems, the real estate developers and car designers. Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights. They focus on consolidating a liberal base, he said, to their detriment. In part, the problems with more abstract carbon-pricing proposals, including 1631, were societal and structural. The carbon fee would add 15 cents per gallon, an increase of 21 cents per gallon. The natural gas industry also began to swell, proposing a dozen separate refineries and terminals with their attendant pipelines and trains in Oregon and Washington. It made sense here, in a green-leaning state where calls to climate action ring louder than in, say, coal-dependent Wyoming. And the messaging of the “No” on 1631 campaign fed on the rich vein of discontent around accountability for the funds the tax would raise, as well as the worry that voters, rather than large-scale polluters, would end up paying for the cost of climate change. She used that argument to talk to her dad about climate change, invoking his sense of familial values and his worry for his kids and grandkids. Of the 59 percent of Washingtonians who voted to re-elect Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat who supports aggressive climate action, about a quarter rejected the carbon tax. There was no carbon tax or fee included in the governor's slate of proposed legislation that his office said would reduce carbon emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035. We're a nonprofit (so it's tax-deductible), and reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget. But for now climate activists are stuck with the art of the possible. Establishing a carbon pollution tax and investment program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, facilitate the transition to a clean energy economy, and invest in K-12 education and other vital public services. The carbon fee is part of a transportation funding package that marks Washington's third major attempt to create such a policy since 2018. The curious death of Initiative 1631 and what … Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the. Putting a policy to that will be as daunting as it is urgent. Over a cup of tea, Golden dissected, and then dissected again, the faults of the tax and the future of climate action. When she spoke to voters in Spokane, not many people there knew what the tax was, let alone what it had to do with the wildfire smoke outside their windows. Last fall, the majority of voters in my legislative district voted against Initiative 1631, the carbon tax scheme. Actually, the United States already has a carbon tax. Oregon governor Kate Brown led … “An extreme weather event doesn’t affect political leanings.” Ongoing, intensifying hurricanes in Florida, for example, have not necessarily driven people to vote for liberal candidates who back climate action, and extreme weather has a relatively small impact on public opinion. The room began to perk up. “The word ‘tax’ is probably the most reviled word,” said Hal Harvey, CEO of the firm Energy Innovation, which helps design renewable energy policies around the globe. Can you pitch in a few bucks to help fund Mother Jones' investigative journalism? KC Golden is a longtime climate campaigner and, until recently, a senior policy advisor at Climate Solutions, which helped craft Initiative 1631. Outside, the winter weather was particularly nasty, with rain that flew sideways and high winds shoving people around the sidewalks. “People who weren’t sure if they were going to win—that’s the best.”. The simplest explanation is that people just don’t like taxes, and oil and gas outspent green groups to exploit that dislike. The Democratic governor is proposing new taxes to help pay for coronavirus relief, plus an ambitious plan to cap carbon emissions in Washington state. Throughout the Intermountain West, the oil and gas industry provides a lot of jobs and wields a lot of influence, and a significant number of voters support mining and fossil fuel extraction. “It had all the structural factors in its favor,” said Dolšak, from the menacing weather that preceded the vote to the overall support for climate action in the state. But when people need to choose between their day-to-day concerns and a future pot of money for projects they can’t imagine, the day-to-day wins. Since 2013, legislative proposals for either cap-and-trade or carbon taxes have failed three times. “If you take a mile-long coal train going through Seattle, it just doesn’t look good,” said de Place. 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