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Coronado-Based Non-profit Wins National Climate Prize

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Citizens' Climate Lobby, a Coronado-based non-profit advocating for national policies to address climate change, has won a prestigious national award.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The Keeling curve prize is a big deal. It's awarded annually to 10 projects, determined to succeed in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to come back. Climate change the prizes name for the late climate science researcher, Charles David Keeling, who was affiliated with the Scripps Institute of oceanography here from the 1950s till his death in 2005. And one of this year's Keeling curve prize winners is a Cornetto based organization as part of coverage from our KPBS climate change desk. Mark Reynolds, executive director of citizens. Climate lobby joins me now. Welcome to midday edition. Thank you. Well, congratulations on your award. First thing, um, I'll remind listeners, Charles David Keeling invented the Keeling curve that measures the progressive buildup over decades of CO2 in the atmosphere. So tell us first about citizens' climate lobby. How are you organized? What's your mission?

Speaker 2: 00:56 Yeah, so our founders actually from Cornado California and he spent 20 years sending up microcredit loans around the world, initiated over a million microcredit loans. And then when he started to look into climate change, he realized that all his work he'd done to try and combat extreme poverty was going to be undone by climate change. And when he'd been working on microcredit, he'd been doing it in partnership with an organization called results that basically proved the grassroots efforts can be successful with Congress. So what we decided is in 2007 is what Congress needed is a chapter in every single congressional district who would work with our member of Congress on solutions to climate change. So that's essentially what we are, is a grassroots organization, where we have volunteers in every congressional district, in every state who regularly meet with our representative and their senators to work on solutions to climate change.

Speaker 1: 01:48 And the Keeling curve award was to honor your work on bipartisan climate change. Mitigation policies doesn't seem, there's been much success on that front from reading the headlines during this trumpet.

Speaker 2: 01:59 It doesn't seem like that, but we were able to create the climate solutions caucus in the house that had 45 Republicans and 45 Democrats who work together on solutions. We were able to create the same thing in the Senate where we now have a Senate Republicans and Democrats working with each other. And one of the things that came out of that is the first bipartisan carbon pricing bill, the energy innovation and carbon dividend act being introduced last year, which was the first bipartisan carbon pricing bill in a decade. So while most of the noise is about how bad things are, if you're willing to do the work and you're willing to do it with local constituents, you can actually make progress, getting people to work together

Speaker 1: 02:37 That, uh, energy innovation and carbon dividend act, what would that actually do if it were passed?

Speaker 2: 02:44 So if you talk to economists, what they will tell you is that the single most important thing that needs to happen to mitigate climate change is quote a price on carbon. So what it does is it takes anywhere where carbon pollution comes into the economy and has the true cost, what economists call externalities, what it's, what it's doing to damage society included in the real cost. So there's a steadily rising fee on coal oil, natural gas, but then what it does is it takes every single dollar from that fee and returns it back to American households, which we think is really, really important. Because if you do something to price carbon, the costs for American households will go up and if their costs go up and there's no way for them to mitigate it, they're not going to support it. And what we want is overwhelming support from American households. So we return all that money to American households would actually have most of them coming out with a little bit more money in their pocket. Then they're increasing costs

Speaker 1: 03:41 A likelihood in this election year, in this Congress with this administration that this will pass, or is it going to have to wait for a change in Washington?

Speaker 2: 03:49 It's going to have to wait till next year. And, um, the fact that there's now 80 co-sponsors, which is the most co-sponsors any carbon pricing bill has ever had is a good indication of where things could go in in the future, but we want it to be established as clearly the route to success with climate change in the next Congress.

Speaker 1: 04:08 And the evidence that assessing fees works does it, has it worked in places?

Speaker 2: 04:13 One of the examples that economists constantly point to is cigarette smoking. You know, it used to be that over half of Americans smoked and now less than 13% do. And while economists will say education helped the real defining factor was a price. And so that's the kind of example that they constantly point to, to say that price is the easiest way to change behavior. If you want behavior to change quickly, simply make something you don't want more expensive. You know, one of the nice things about that is people sometimes say, well, wouldn't a fee on carbon, be regressive. And if all you took into account was energy costs, that would be correct. But most people's carbon footprint is actually created by what they buy. And so the people at the lowest ends of the economic spectrum are actually the people who do the best under this policy.

Speaker 1: 05:03 And how does this bill relate to the green new deal? Is that part of it or something different?

Speaker 2: 05:08 It's something entirely different. I think the green new deal has done a great job of drawing attention to action on climate change. What we're doing is saying, you know, the climate scientists tell us we've got to do something quickly. The IPC says we've got to get a price quickly. So we're taking a very specific, very scientific approach. We do what we do because the people at scripts tell us, we must do it. We offer the solution we do because economists tell it's it's the best solution. And then, then I think there's a third piece to that in 2011, there's a gentleman who's now at Stanford, who was at Berkeley at the time named Rob Willer, who wrote a paper called apocalypse CERN dire messages are counterproductive on global warming and what his studies showed and subsequent social studies have shown. If you want people to work on this, if you want to bring people, you've got to be solution oriented. So we focus on us solution and giving that to people. And I think that's the reason that our organization citizens' climate lobby has doubled or tripled in size every year for the last 10 years.

Speaker 1: 06:09 I've been speaking with Mark Reynolds, executive director of the citizens' climate lobby. Thanks very much. And congratulations on your award.

Speaker 2: 06:16 Yeah. Thank you so much. It's a big deal for us. We're a climate organization and there's nothing more, more prominent for us than, than something that ties itself to the Keeling curve. So thank you so much for having us.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.