The amount of work that goes into just passing one bill through Congress can be incredible. Sometimes whole organizations are created of like-minded, passionate folks on a serious mission for a cause that would otherwise have no backbone.
All across the United States, those who have environmental interests and want to make a difference for the cause have a home at the Citizen’s Climate Lobby. Abbreviated CCL, the organization is “a non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change,” according to their website.
Their mission is to create a platform for sustainable climate action across all locations and political preferences. CCL has been known to work with both Democrats and Republicans, as well as everything in-between.
Samantha Spagnolo, who has long been a voice of environmental progress on Millersville’s campus as the former president of the Geography club, is an intern for CCL this semester. She has been working closely under Jim Sandoe, the treasurer of the Lancaster chapter. Both Sandoe and Spagnolo encourage young environmentalists, especially students, to get involved with the organization.
“They are a very passionate group to work with, and I think my experience is really going to help me on my career path,” says Spagnolo. She has been with the organization for about two weeks now and says that everyone is very welcoming.
Currently, the main goal and function of CCL is to get an important bill passed that will be essential to the future of climate action in the United States.
The name of the bill is the Carbon Fee and Dividend Bill. The main function will be to put a fee on activities that have a large carbon footprint, hence making these activities and processes much more expensive.
“The fee deters big business from continuing these practices and the dividend takes weight off the shoulders of the consumer so that we can invest in the future of energy,” Spagnolo said.
The money that is raised from the fee is split up and divided amongst households to potentially make up for the fee and puts the majority of the cost on larger businesses that are causing more harm towards the environment. The idea is that these households will potentially spend the money that they earn from the dividend towards making their homes more airtight or energy efficient, therefore cutting back on carbon costs and saving more money in the long run.
Although climate efforts are typically on a more Democratic or liberal agenda, CCL makes it very clear how important it is to remain non-partisan. Lancaster chapter treasurer Jim Sandoe talked of working with numerous Republican Party representatives. “We work with the Congress we have, not the Congress we want,” Sandoe explained.
A surprising amount of Republicans have actually showed that they are in favor of a climate tax. A group of former White House staff and other representatives from the Republican Party have formed another group called the Climate Leadership Council, and they are lobbying for the carbon fee to go into action.
James Baker, a leader of the council and former White House Chief of Staff, Treasury Secretary, and Secretary of State believes that splitting the money earned from the climate fee amongst families will have appeal amongst Donald Trump’s base of blue collar supporters.
Sandoe emphasizes that it is essential to act quickly on this issue. “There are only so many months we can go without hitting some kind of tipping point,” he says.
Many climate scientists have already said that we have gone beyond a tipping point as far as carbon levels in the atmosphere and that it may not be possible to go back. Sandoe says that Earth has 500 million square miles less of ice cover than it should have, which is an area roughly the size of South Africa. Of course, with this comes the rising of sea levels and loss of habitat.
The end-goal is to implement carbon tax on a federal level and put the whole country on the same page. Certain states, like Massachusetts and California, have already implemented a carbon fee on their own and are being used as models for progress.
Another end-goal of the bill is redistribution, or partial redistribution with the rest going to green programs and philanthropic efforts. People at the top of the income bracket would be paying a lot more and not getting as much back, but middle class people would possibly get more back than they put in. Sandoe hopes that people will realize they will get more money for their rebate if they are green and use their extra funds to upgrade their house and reduce their footprint.
Millersville’s own Dr. Kathleen Schreiber from the Geography Department has organized a student climate march in Harrisburg set to take place on April 7th of this year.
Sandoe has been working on the project as well and said that he wants to have students talk to lawmakers. He believes that students can make a very large impact this way and encourages them that it’s not as difficult as it seems, though it can be intimidating at first. “Your voices are magnified,” he says. Sandoe says that he would love to see a bunch of students from Millersville come out in support of the march and of the Lancaster chapter. Millersville students are part of the Lancaster community and lawmakers want to hear their voices as well.
Besides attending the climate march in Harrisburg, Spagnolo encourages students who want to get involved to join the CCL Lancaster Chapter online and go to meetings, marches, and other events. Their website is www.citizensclimatelobby.org .