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Those who burn fossil fuels should pay a price | READER COMMENTARY

[Pictured: Smoking pipes of a thermal power plant.]

(Ugis Riba // Shutterstock)

Climate change “is clearly the greatest public health challenge of this century,” writes Dr. Leon McDougle, the president of the National Medical Association, in his recent commentary, “Climate change threatens more than the environment; it’s a public health crisis” (June 24). That’s quite a statement given the pandemic we’ve just been through.

So, how do we meet this challenge? As Dr. McDougle suggests, we should pass The American Jobs Plan. But that plan is missing a key element that would actually increase its effectiveness: a price on carbon.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has observed that “explicit carbon pricing remains a necessary condition of ambitious climate policies.” And a statement in 2019 by over 3,500 economists, including 28 Nobel Laureates, called for a rising carbon tax with all revenue returned to households. The majority of families, including the most vulnerable, would benefit financially, it said.

Placing a fee on fossil fuel extraction and returning the money collected to the American people to spend as they wish is fair and costs the federal treasury nothing. And yet it is the single fastest, most effective way to cut carbon pollution and produce affordable clean energy because it will percolate through the entire economy, stimulating energy innovation and efficiency as it goes.


There’s a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives now that will do this: the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, H.R. 2307. It has 72 co-sponsors including Maryland Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger. The American Federation of Teachers has endorsed it as has the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and local small businesses, pastors, physicians, state legislators, and many others.

I hope Reps. Kweisi Mfume and John Sarbanes will decide to co-sponsor it, too. If we are to meet the greatest public health challenge of this century, we need to use every tool available.

Cheryl Arney, Ellicott City

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