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Senate Climate Bill That Would Actually Address the Climate Crisis

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President Obama promises executive action on global warming, if Congress fails to enact climate legislation. Now Senator Barbara Boxer of California and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont have introduced a climate bill that includes, among other measures, a tax on carbon emissions. Senator Bernie Sanders discusses the legislation with host Steve Curwood.


CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Boston, this is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

With John Kerry now Secretary of State, leadership for the crusade to address climate change in the United States Senate has passed to Environment Committee Chair Barbara Boxer of California and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont. And the two have wasted little time in taking up the challenge of President Obama, who has vowed to take executive action on climate change if the Congress fails to act.

Senators Boxer and Sanders have introduced legislation that would, among other measures, impose a twenty dollar per ton fee on carbon emissions that would be mostly rebated to households. Senator Sanders joins us now from Washington, DC. Welcome to Living on Earth!

SANDERS: Thank you for having me.

CURWOOD: So the centerpiece of your bill is what you're calling a fee and dividend on carbon emissions. How would that work?

SANDERS: Well, the good news here is that what we are doing is focusing on the 3,000 largest emitters of greenhouse gas in the country, putting a fee of $20 per ton of carbon or methane equivalent. CURWOOD: So this will be what, the oil refinery?

SANDERS: Coal mines, the oil refineries, the natural gas processing plants, or at the point of importation as well - which would deal with about 85 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions. So this is not going to be a fee, which impacts tens and tens and tens of thousands of entities. It's kind of what we call an "upstream", where the emissions take place.

CURWOOD: So how exactly would it work? How would you impose this?

SANDERS: Look. Here's the point. Here's the point before we get into all of the details. The important issue to understand right now is that according to the scientific community, we stand the danger of seeing the planet Earth temperature rise by 8°F by the end of this century. If that happens, and we've talked to many of the leading scientists who study this issue, what they are telling us is this will cause catastrophic - underline catastrophic - damage to the planet. What we already know is that 12 out of the last 15 years have been the warmest on record. We already know that we're looking at unprecedented levels of drought, of floods, of extreme weather disturbances like Hurricane Irene or Hurricane Sandy. We're looking at the continent of Australia burning up. We're looking at heat waves in Europe the people have never seen before.  
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