On September 22 Gov. Ned Lamont called for the Connecticut General Assembly to meet beginning September 27 for the sole purpose of considering his extended emergency powers related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The legislature should also pass Connecticut’s bill implementing the Transportation & Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P-P) in our state during this special session, or another one in the near future.
News media and international climate organizations have summoned the world to mitigate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, starting immediately in view of what may legitimately be called a climate emergency. We have such an emergency because of failure to act earlier to mitigate emissions despite warnings of increasing harms as GHG emissions continue unabated. Higher atmospheric levels of GHGs directly warm our planet; the effects lead to worsening extreme weather and climate events that cause severe damage, human suffering, and economic burdens with each passing year.
Think of a tub of water (a model for accumulated atmospheric greenhouse gases) getting higher because of more water coming in from a faucet (a model for continued annual emissions adding to the accumulated amount). Most greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for centuries or longer (i.e., the water in the tub cannot be lowered in the foreseeable future). It is therefore imperative that humanity across the globe undertake substantive, consequential actions to reduce emissions to near zero as soon as possible. A higher water level in the tub can only be minimized by closing the faucet.
The call to action from climate scientists and some leaders is dire and immediate. The longer we delay the more greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, leading to worse climate disasters. Here in Connecticut we suffered damage from Tropical Storms Isaias, Henri and Ida in the last two years (searched here. Climate scientists agree that storms such as these are more severe than similar earlier events because of climate change.
As of 2016 the transportation sector contributed 38% of Connecticut’s GHG emissions, the largest of any sector in the energy economy. We can no longer delay passing meaningful climate mitigation measures such as TCI-P embodied in the 2021 bill substitute SB 884. The bill would impose upper limits on emissions from the transportation sector by auctioning allowances for them. This mechanism is modeled on a similar system already in place for Connecticut’s electric generation sector as part of the northeastern states’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The allowances would generate revenues, 50% of which would have to be directed toward benefiting communities overburdened by air pollution or underserved by available transportation service.
The press has noted objections from some legislators that TCI-P would increase gas prices, for example, by about $0.05/gal. It should be noted, however, that the price of regular gas in New England over the past three years has fluctuated wildly by more than $1.00/gal.
In view of the graphic above, their objections to TCI-P ring hollow. Connecticut’s drivers experience far greater, and more unpredictable, gasoline price fluctuations than the $0.05 foreseen for TCI-P.
Substitute SB 884 should be considered and passed in the special legislative session next week, or in another special session called specifically for this purpose. In order minimize continued emissions our legislators should not delay its passage any longer.
Henry Auer of New Haven is the Publisher of the Global Warming Blog.