Few Americans are aware of all the recent climate news because of all the headlines about the White House “palace intrigue,” the Florida high school massacre, and the fate of the Dreamers. Warning: The climate news isn’t good.

Let’s start with the leaked draft of a United Nations climate science report. It warns there is a “very high risk” the planet will pass a key warming marker, creeping above 1.5 degrees Celsius in the 2040's, The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney reported February 14. The document also says the possibility of maintaining the planet’s temperature below that level in this century is “already out of reach.”

What’s most striking, Mooney wrote, is the radical nature and rapidity of the changes that would be required to somehow preserve a world below 1.5 degrees. The document finds that the world has 12 to 16 years’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions left, from the start of 2016, if it wants a better-than-even chance of holding warming below 1.5 degrees.


Do you like to ski? If so, get out there and enjoy it while you can. Dryer and warmer weather is shortening the ski season and reducing the number of resorts that will have enough snow to remain in business.

Within the next 20 years, the number of days at or below freezing in some of the most popular ski towns in the United States will decline by weeks or even a month, according to a new report by the Climate Impact Lab. In Park City, Utah, for example, an average of 194 days each year between 1981 and 2010 were at or below freezing, but that figure could be cut in half by late century if emissions continue to rise at the current rate.

In the Alps, the eight-nation mountain range that accounts for 40 percent of the world’s skier-days, resorts are facing the loss of up to 70 percent of their snow cover by the end of the century, and the snow line will be a kilometer higher – above the base of most ski areas. Even in the best-case scenarios, global warming is likely to cause snowfall to be replaced by rain across the Alps, according to a report in the European Geosciences Union journal Cryosphere.


The next time you hear a politician say that our country simply can’t afford to tackle climate change, send him a copy of the new report documenting the more than $300 billion in damage caused by natural disasters last year. That figure made 2017 the most expensive year on record for disasters in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Another NOAA finding: There were 16 billion-dollar events, which has happened only once before, in 2011. (There’s a great map in the NOAA report linked above.) The list includes Hurricanes Harvey ($125 billion), Irma ($50 billion) and Maria ($90 billion); floods and wildfires in California; hail storms in Colorado and Minnesota; and three tornado outbreaks. There was drought and fire in the Plains states. The 16 events killed 362 people, according to NOAA’s report.

The previous most expensive disaster year was 2005, when events such as Hurricane Katrina caused $215 billion in U.S. damage, when adjusted for inflation. NOAA’s record of billion-dollar natural disasters goes back to 1980.

Leaders in the Americas Eager to Act

The Partnership for Responsible Growth believes that Northern Hemisphere carbon pricing coordination makes all the sense in the world. That’s why we approached the Aspen Institute in 2016 to encourage that widely respected organization to convene a meeting of representatives from Canada, Mexico, and the United States to explore opportunities. We lined up influential partners: the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, and Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

We co-hosted a two-day roundtable, featuring 40 policy experts, business people and political leaders from the three countries to address ways to integrate carbon pricing across the continent. In October 2016 the Canadian Embassy hosted a follow-up session that, like the first, was well attended and thought-provoking. But after the election of President Trump, the effort stalled. Our government’s lack of interest in this initiative blocked progress.

So we were heartened by an announcement December 12 at the One Planet climate summit organized by French President Emmanuel Macron. The heads of states and governments of Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile and Mexico; the governors of California, Washington; and the premiers of Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec declared their “commitment to implement carbon pricing as a central economic and environmental policy instrument for ambitious climate change action.”

A Carbon Fee Can Help Fund Infrastructure Improvements

Desperate to put legislative points on the scoreboard by year’s end, congressional leaders have decided to enact a tax overhaul that loads another $1.0-1.5 trillion on an already spiraling national debt. So the initial opportunity for a debate about how carbon revenue could supply that new revenue appears to have passed.

The next opportunity to promote a carbon fee could be a bill to invest in the nation’s ailing infrastructure. No one doubts the need to make such investments. The U.S. currently has a D+ on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ infrastructure report card, and ASCE estimates that all levels of government will have to invest an additional $2 trillion over the next decade if we’re going to avoid falling further behind. The ASCE grades infrastructure in 16 interconnected categories, including the energy grid and our water systems. All are vitally important if our economy is to remain healthy and if we are to compete with other nations.