Conservatives and progressives unite to fight climate change

MIchael Hill


Quick: Name an event you’ve attended recently where progressives and conservatives, and everyone in between, have come together to calmly and collaboratively discuss solutions for tackling a critically important global issue. Nothing comes to mind? Well, that’s exactly what happened at The Collider in downtown Asheville March 25-26, when 80 people from Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina came together for the Mid-South Regional Conference of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots group advocates for national policies to address climate change. The focus is on passing federal legislation to create a revenue-neutral, carbon fee-and-dividend program in which companies would pay a fee for extracting fossil fuels based on how many tons of carbon dioxide the use of those fuels would produce. After covering the modest administrative costs, all remaining revenues would be returned to American households in the form of checks from the Treasury Department. We’re proposing an initial fee of $15 per ton, increasing by $10 a ton annually. Studies predict that such a program would result in the creation of 2.1 million jobs and more than a 50 percent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions over 20 years.

If the Climate Lobby can persuade Southern members of Congress to support the proposal, there’s reason to believe it could become federal law. “If we succeed in the South, we succeed nationally,” Don Addu, the organization’s Southeast regional director, told the conference.

Asheville chapter leader Steffi Rausch and her counterparts from other chapters briefly summarized their groups’ activities. After that, participants were treated to inspirational talks by local agricultural expert and author Laura Lengnick, who runs the consulting firm Cultivating Resilience, and Drew Jones, co-director of the Asheville-based nonprofit Climate Interactive. Addressing the assembled volunteers, Jones, a globally recognized expert on climate change modeling, said, “You all are the right people working at the right angle on the right issue.”

 Positive trends

Jones illustrated several scenarios, concluding that in order to prevent catastrophic impacts, humans must start now to first cap and then reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (To get a better sense of this, check out C-ROADS, Climate Interactive’s free policy simulator.) To that end, noted Jones, 64 national and subnational jurisdictions have enacted carbon fees.

He also highlighted some global trends, including a slowdown in China’s production and consumption of coal, and the plummeting costs of wind (50 percent drop since 2009) and solar energy systems (80 percent drop since 2008). But even these positive developments aren’t enough — and that’s where the carbon pricing program comes in.

The conference included several sessions training volunteers in how to lobby effectively, build relationships and engage the community. Other sessions specifically addressed such topics as reaching out to conservatives, practicing active listening, and holding a lobbying meeting with members of Congress and their staffers. Participants heard about efforts by the Charleston, W.Va., chapter to bring the idea of a carbon fee-and-dividend program to the very heart of coal country.

I’ll be honest: I struggled at first with the idea of proactively engaging with members of Congress, regardless of their ideological bent and party affiliation. Sometimes I just want to scream and shout, “We have to do something about climate change now! What do you mean ‘The science is unsettled.’ Are you kidding?”

Now, however, I’m all in with that approach, because this issue is too crucial for me to hold grudges or think that I alone have the solution. I’m a pragmatist. I want to see the high elevation spruce/fir forests survive in Western North Carolina, see our native brook trout thrive. Most of all, I want my children, your children and our grandchildren to grow up in a world with a stable climate.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby declares itself to be “relentlessly optimistic,” and that’s a pretty accurate description. I find these volunteers’ positive spirit and enthusiasm to be contagious. I hope you will, too.

To find out more about CCL or get on the mailing list, visit To keep up with the Asheville chapter’s activities, visit

Michael Hill teaches mathematics and environmental science at the Asheville School and volunteers with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. You can find his blog at


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15 thoughts on “Conservatives and progressives unite to fight climate change

    • T

      The science is always unsettled since there is always uncertainty, but the science is clearly telling us that we need to do something NOW with quite a bit of certainty – if we continue business as usual, we will likely become extinct! Just look into a little – you’ll see what I mean.

  1. Grant Millin

    CCL keeps adding policy interventions like “border carbon tariffs” and they now elude to something about “DOE and Treasury programming” and the IPCC target of staying well under the trillionth ton of airborne carbon at an ultra low vision rock bottom Libertarian administrative fee of $5-6 billion a year”… and LESS over time?

    Folks should not sell the future for such minimal amounts. I get it that CCL folks believe the tax going straight to citizens will prompt corporate America and globalized capitalism to just make the right CleanTech investments ‘no muss, no fuss’… but it’s selling a bill of goods that just leaves too much off the table without discussion of alternatives.

    I encourage folks to also learn about Sen. Sanders’ and former Sen. Boxer’a Climate Protection Act. Yes, CCL folks will say “Command and control bad!”, but more folks need to get in touch will the true scope and time scales of the chain link strategy challenges behind Anthropogenic Climate:

    The Trillionth Ton of airborne carbon is too expensive

    Regular folks hate Bush I “read my lips” policy experiences in which the “Where’s the beef?” moment reveals far less evidence-based outcome than the assumed most politically expedient stategy overpromise advertised. I feel that while the reality of a Federal carbon tax in two years is agreed, what that means PRECISELY deserves fresh strategy over what CCL has been marketing so far.

  2. Big Al

    I saw no specifics in this article to define who the “conservatives” in attendance were.

    Just because you are over 40 without tattoos or long hair does not make you a conservative. At best you are moderate. Nothing wrong with that, but let’s be honest about what is really going on here. We have been green-washed enough as it is.

    • Huhsure

      “At best you are moderate.” So true. It’s only when you’re foaming at the mouth and screaming ‘Emails!’ that you’re a true conservative.

      • The Real World

        Yet again……another either ignorant or willful misinterpretation of facts and reality. A boatload of voters made it very clear in Nov, all over America, that they had had enough of that scam.

        • Huhsure

          Yeah, they showed that they prefer unleaded scam. Like “I’m lying to you, but you don’t care because you’re such gullible marks, so here’s a bit of cheating, and how’s ’bout a little treason to boot? What’s that over there? EMAILS!”

        • NFB

          Her “boatload” was bigger than his “boatload.”

          Just because his “boatload” was distributed in a different manner than her’s doesn’t mean that the more people fell for his scam and want to go in the direction he wants to take us.

          • The Real World

            You all are the ones who buy into the “good cop, bad cop” thing; my team is better than your team, yadda yadda. (Fyi…they’re both sell-outs). And you like to muddle the reality of issues by presenting inaccurate details.

            The “emails” were a byproduct (and intended media distraction) of the actual and very important issue. That was all established…gee, about 2 years ago now! Try to keep up, folks.

  3. Deplorable Infidel

    …mean ole sun (o’sol amio) hates my white skin…I call him racist.

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